Closing the attainment gap in England’s secondary schools

School improvement policies will not be enough to close the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils in England’s secondary schools, concludes a report from the Institute for Public Policy Research. Pupils from deprived areas are about as likely to attend a school rated ‘satisfactory’ or ‘inadequate’ as wealthier pupils are likely to attend a school rated ‘outstanding’; however, findings of the report show that even if every pupil in the country attended an outstanding school, the attainment gap between the poorest and wealthiest pupils would only be cut by a fifth. The report also looks at what impact the pupil premium and other targeted interventions have on closing the attainment gap, and finds that:

  • Targeting interventions towards poorer pupils helps to raise achievement in the poorest areas of the country, but does not help to reduce the attainment gap in the rest of the country.
  • Interventions work best if they focus on tackling the variations in achievement within each school, and are targeted at all pupils who are falling behind regardless of their socioeconomic background.
  • Interventions at secondary school cannot do all of the work in narrowing the attainment gap. The biggest effects are achieved when interventions start in early years and primary school and are continued into secondary school.

Source: Closing the attainment gap in England’s secondary schools (2012) Institute for Public Policy Research

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