THE poorest children in Thurrock schools are nearly two years behind their non-disadvantaged classmates a new report says.
The Education Policy Institute study shows that in early years education, disadvantaged pupils are already four months behind their peers.
By primary school the gap widens to nine months and by the time they sit their GCSEs, disadvantaged children in Thurrock are 23 months behind their peers, accounting for one of the biggest discrepancies in the country.
In secondary schools, the data shows the Isle of Wight is the worst performing local authority in terms of the gap between disadvantaged pupils and all other pupils.
Although, the gap in Thurrock has closed marginally for children in early years and secondary education over the last decade, it has increased slightly for primary school pupils.
If progress continued at the current rate it would take several decades to fully close the disadvantage gap.
The report said: “Despite significant investment and targeted intervention programmes, the gap between disadvantaged 16-year-old pupils and their peers has only narrowed by three months of learning between 2007 and 2016.
“In 2016, the gap nationally, at the end of secondary school, was still 19.3 months.
“In fact, disadvantaged pupils fall behind their more affluent peers by around two months each year over the course of secondary school.”
“At current trends, we estimate that it would take around 50 years for the disadvantage gap to close completely by the time pupils take their GCSEs.”
Prime Minister Theresa May, when first taking up the office, said: “When it comes to opportunity, we won’t entrench the advantages of the fortunate few, we will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you.”
However, the EPI report contradicts this promise.
It analysed official data on GCSEs and other test results as well as pupil backgrounds from the national pupil database.
Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT Teachers’ Union, said: “The findings of this report are sadly unsurprising. Factors which are common among pupils who are falling behind their peers include child poverty, insecure housing, poor physical and mental health among families and job insecurity.
“These have all seen an increase as a result of the Government’s austerity programme and reforms to welfare.”
“Our children cannot afford to wait three generations, to close the pupil attainment gap.”
Avis Gilmore, Assistant General Secretary, of the National Union of Teachers, said: “This report gives a sombre warning to Government, local authorities and schools are being starved of cash resulting in the closure of or cut-backs to many essential support services for those pupils most in need.”