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New report finds slow progress on achieving equal outcomes in education

By Rachel Lawler
The gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children is closing at a “very slow rate”, according to a new report from the Education Policy Institute (EPI).
The report finds that between 2007 and 2017, the gap between disadvantaged and more advantaged five-year-olds closed by just 1.2 months of learning.
Regional differences
The report also found that there were variations across England. Generally, the disadvantage gap was smaller in London, the South and the East and larger in the North and South West. The London borough of Newham was one of the best performing areas, with disadvantaged five-year-olds achieving as well as non-disadvantaged five-year-olds in the same region. The EPI says this means there is “potential scope for dramatic improvements in narrowing the gap across the rest of England”.
Slow progress
The EPI has estimated that if progress continues at its current rate, it will take around 50 years for the gap to close completely by the time students sit their GCSEs. It also suggested that further investigation was needed to understand the reasons behind some of the patterns spotted and the different circumstances of children with similar characteristics.
Overall, the EPI concluded that it is taking “far too long” to close the gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged children. The report said: “If we carry on at this pace we will lose at least three generations before equality of outcomes is realised through our education system.”
Early years focus
The Alliance said that the report’s findings were “disappointing and frustrating”. Chief executive Neil Leitch said: “Time and time again, research has shown that if you want to improve social mobility, you should focus on the early years. And yet somehow we find ourselves in a situation where children’s centres are closing down across the country, and early years providers are still having to struggle for survival in the face of chronic underfunding. This simply isn’t good enough.”

He added: “As the report rightly argues, we don’t have time to waste on this. If the government truly wants to ‘close the gap’ and bring about long-term change, it should put its money where it will be most effective – and that means adequately investing in early years services.”

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