Persistently disadvantaged children make 20 months less progress in opportunity areas

Nov. 22, 2016

Research released today by new education charity, Ambition School Leadership, shows that persistently disadvantaged children in areas of low social mobility made 20.1 months’ less progress than their wealthier peers across England in 2015. It also shows schools in these areas find it harder to improve and are more likely to decline in their Ofsted rating for leadership and management.

The report, ‘Ambitious for Every Child’, which includes analysis from the Education Policy Institute (EPI), is the first look at student progress in the new ‘Opportunity Areas’, identified by the government as areas of low social mobility and targeted with £60m of investment. It assesses the gap in progress made between disadvantaged children in Opportunity Areas and non-disadvantaged children in schools across England.

Persistently disadvantaged students - who have spent at least 80% of their time in secondary school eligible for free school meals – now make the least progress. In Opportunity Areas, this group has fallen 8.3 months’ further behind since 2010.

Non-disadvantaged students in Opportunity Areas also make below average progress; and schools in Opportunity Areas are in particular need of support because the quality of their Leadership and Management, as rated by Ofsted, is more likely to fall over time. Ambition School Leadership develops leaders to improve schools in challenging contexts.

James Toop, CEO of Ambition School Leadership, said: ‘We’re ambitious for every child to achieve their potential but seeing how far students are falling behind in Opportunity Areas means we have to support their schools to improve.

“Our new organisation, Ambition School Leadership, is a chance to make this happen. We develop school leaders – from heads of department to headteachers and beyond – because we know great leaders at all levels make great schools. We’re going to be working even harder to reach these schools and give the children they serve a great education.”

Ambition School Leadership is a new charity formed by the merger of two leadership development charities, The Future Leaders Trust and Teaching Leaders.

Persistently disadvantaged students have tended to make less progress than other students for some time but it has fallen in Opportunity Areas. The progress gap between persistently disadvantaged students and the non-disadvantaged national average has grown from 11.8 months in 2010 to 20.1 months in 2015 – a drop of 8.3 months.

In Opportunity Areas, persistently disadvantaged students make 20.1 months less progress than the national average for non-disadvantaged students. They even make 5.8 months less progress than other children whose families have faced similar sustained poverty in the rest of the country.

Schools in the lowest-performing areas – Opportunity Areas and areas 5 and 6 - are more likely to decline in their Ofsted ratings for Leadership and Management from Good or Outstanding to Inadequate or Requires Improvement than in other areas, impacting on schools’ capacities to improve overall and for their pupils to thrive.

The full research paper, ‘Progress in priority areas’, reveals more detail about the way that disadvantaged students are falling behind:

  • In Opportunity Areas, the progress gap has grown every year from 2010 to 2015. Over that time, the gap has increased by 3.6 months for non-disadvantaged pupils, 6.4 months for disadvantaged pupils and 8.3 months for persistently disadvantaged students. 

Summary of progress gaps in Opportunity Areas:

  • Non-disadvantaged students in Opportunity Areas make 4.7 months’ less progress at Key Stage 4 than non-disadvantaged pupils nationally.
  • Disadvantaged students in Opportunity Areas make 18.4 months’ less progress at Key Stage 4 than non-disadvantaged  students nationally.
  • Persistently disadvantaged students in Opportunity Areas make 20.1 months’ less progress at Key Stage 4 than non-disadvantaged students nationally.
  • School’s Ofsted ratings of Leadership and Management were most likely to fall in Opportunity Areas, where 18% of schools with Good or Outstanding leadership in 2010 saw a decline to Requires Improvement or Inadequate by March 2016. It was 7% of schools in areas 1 and 2.