Poor pupils nearly twice as likely not to pass maths GCSE as richer peers, analysis reveals

‘A child’s postcode should never determine how well they do at school,’ charity says

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
@Eleanor_Busby
Thursday 22 August 2019 06:40
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Youngsters from the poorest areas were also more likely to score low grades in English
Youngsters from the poorest areas were also more likely to score low grades in English

Poorer pupils are nearly twice as likely not to pass their maths GCSE as their richer peers, analysis suggests.

Teenagers from the most disadvantaged areas are at risk of being held back because they are significantly more likely to score low grades in their GCSEs, education charity Teach First has warned.

Nearly two in five students (38 per cent) from the poorest areas of England failed to secure at least a grade 4 (a C in the old GCSEs) in maths last year, compared to a fifth of the richest students.

The same proportion of the most disadvantaged youngsters (38 per cent) failed to get a grade 4 or above in GCSE English language, compared to 22 per cent of the most advantaged.

A grade 4 is considered a “standard pass” by the Department for Education (DfE).

The analysis comes the day before tens of thousands of students receive their GCSE results.

Teach First is calling on the government to boost the funding in schools serving poorer communities.

Only 13 per cent of pupils from the poorest areas gained the top three grades in maths (9 to 7), which is the equivalent of an A and above, compared to 26 per cent of those from the richest areas.

In English language, just 11 per cent of the most disadvantaged students secured the top three grades, compared to 22 per cent of the richest pupils, the analysis shows.

Youngsters from the poorest areas were also more likely to score low grades in other subjects.

For example, half of disadvantaged children failed to get a grade 4 in GCSE geography, compared to 27 per cent of the richest pupils.

All full-time students who fail to secure at least a grade 4 in maths or English must resit the qualification if they want to study at a school or college.

Russell Hobby, chief executive of Teach First, said: “A child’s postcode should never determine how well they do at school, yet today we’ve found huge disparities based on just that.

“Low attainment at GCSE is a real cause for concern, as it can shut doors to future success and holds young people back from meeting their aspirations.”

He added: “The prime minister needs to not only hold true to his promise of more investment for schools – but he must target it at those in areas of the greatest need.

“That also means urgently addressing teacher starting salaries, to help encourage more talented people into the profession, so they can use their skills and knowledge where it really matters.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “It is clear that the current exam system is not working for students who face the greatest level of challenge, and this is often students from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

He added that a third of young people leave school without a grade 4 or above in GCSE maths and English – which are needed for many jobs and courses at colleges and universities.

“ASCL believes that we need a new approach and we have established a commission of inquiry which will make its recommendations in early September,” Mr Barton said.

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Angela Rayner, shadow education secretary, said: “The Tories have embedded inequality in our schools, with the most disadvantaged students losing out.

“The Conservatives have slashed funding for schools and created a crisis in teacher recruitment and retention, and a generation of children are paying the price for this government’s failure.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “The gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers has narrowed considerably since 2011, and 85 per cent of children are now in good or outstanding schools compared to just 66 per cent in 2010.

“And our £2.4bn pupil premium is helping the most disadvantaged children. But we must do more.

“The prime minister has committed to increasing school funding so we can level up all parts of the UK and close the opportunity gap.”

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