A recent report by the Education Policy Institute has found that there has been no improvement to the educational attainment gap between disadvantaged and wealthy students over the past few years.
The report finds that students who have been eligible for free school meals at any stage over the past six years are likely to achieve GCSEs that are on average 1.24 grades lower than their more privileged counterparts.
The outcomes for students experiencing long term poverty are even more concerning; these students are expected to achieve results that are on average 1.6 grades lower than those who do not come from a disadvantaged background.
The recent lack of progress is a direct result of the way COVID-19 has impacted teaching and learning. However, it would be inaccurate to blame these challenges solely on the pandemic.
Progress began to slow as early as 2017, with the Rt Hon David Law the Executive Chairman of the Education Policy Institute reporting, "even before COVID struck, there were signs that the disadvantaged learning gaps were about to widen.”
Amid growing concerns about the educational attainment gap, I am proud to announce that the Nick Maughan Foundation has sponsored full bursaries for children from low-income families to attend some of the country's best schools, such as Putney High in Southwest London.
It is a privilege to know that our support will open doors for young people to access world-leading education, with the Nick Maughan Foundation firmly believing a high standard of education should not only be available to those able to pay high school feels, but also to those with the requisite ability without the financial means.
The donation from the Nick Maughan Foundation will also go towards the school’s internal charity, Friends of Putney High School, which organises extra-curricular activities for the school community. Recent initiatives by Friends of Putney High School include building a Bumblebee Colony for Biodiversity in the Sixth Form Centre and providing new outdoor play equipment for the junior school.
Jane Day, Chair of the Friends of Putney High School, commented on the donation on the school’s website, stating that they “look forward to the exciting new opportunities, experiences and equipment that a donation of this size will enable us to support.”
While philanthropy can play a crucial role in narrowing the educational attainment gap, more needs to be done across the country to ensure that all young people can succeed, regardless of their upbringing or background.
There is not a single set of steps that will successfully narrow the attainment gap. The backgrounds and challenges faced by young people differ immensely, and for those at schools in the most deprived areas, circumstances can be difficult to navigate. However, by tackling the educational attainment gap holistically, progress can be made.
We must ensure that the needs of our young people are met, and this must be a priority – whether that be through additional support for wellbeing or ensuring that schools and pupils have the digital resources to teach and learn effectively.