Expanding educational opportunities for every child

16 June 2021

By Dean Hochlaf

2 minute read

This working paper maps the ways in which social disadvantage affects educational outcomes among children and young people, impacting their progression through the education system and ultimately their employment prospects.

Having commissioned Roger Taylor, former Chair of Ofqual, to reflect on the cancellation of examinations during the pandemic, the Centre for Progressive Policy is now looking to build on some of the key issues raised – notably how the education system can better support the development of all young people and ensure that they have every opportunity to gain qualifications and skills that reflect their passions and potential.

This short paper examines the nature and scale of the attainment gap between children of disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged families and how policy makers might start to rethink the role of education and assessment in levelling the playing field.

Key findings

Drawing on the latest available data, we find:

  • The attainment gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged
    children is highest in the South East at 30.5%. It is lowest in London
    at just 17.6%.
  • The average for GCSE Attainment 8 scores in the most deprived decile
    of England is 43.4 compared to 49.8 in the highest decile.
  • Students from disadvantaged backgrounds are nearly twice as likely to fail to achieve a level 4 in their maths and/or English GCSE compared to students from non-disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • 52.8% of those aged 25–65 who had a parent in a professional occupation have at least a degree as their highest qualification, compared to just 20% of those whose parents worked in either elementary or process, plant and machine operative occupations.
  • 7% of those who work in professional occupations have a GCSE or lower as their highest qualification, compared to 65% of those who work in process, plant and machine operative occupations.
  • 38% of those from non-disadvantaged backgrounds continue into higher education (HE), while only 25% of those from disadvantaged backgrounds will do the same.
  • 58% of students with low prior attainment at GCSE will continue into
    a further education (FE) college or other FE provider, where funding fell by 24.5% between 2010/11 and 2018/19.