OFSTED inspectors have said that deprivation continues to be a “significant factor influencing the quality of schools” in England, with children from poor areas being four times more likely to end up at a poor performing school, writes Graeme Paton at the Telegraph.
In its annual report, the esteemed education watchdog said that the pattern is mirrored in all stages of the education system and beyond, saying that children subjected to a poor start in life were much more likely to be trapped in a low-paid job and less likely to climb the social ladder.
Acting chief inspector, Miriam Rosen, warned that deprived and vulnerable children “need the best services if they are to make good progress”.
“[Disadvantaged children] are more likely to attend schools which are inadequate, but still many of the schools in deprived areas are good or outstanding. The challenge is to get all the schools to the same standard, so they’re all providing a good education for their children.”
Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said:
“Poverty and deprivation are not an excuse for low educational attainment but they are a contributing factor.
“Schools with an imbalanced intake of children from deprived backgrounds need all the help and support they can get and an understanding that their successes need celebrating for their own sake and not by being measured against national targets and school league tables.”
However, in keeping with the government’s academy and free school program, Schools Minister Nick Gibb insisted that there is growing evidence that academies are “successfully weakening the link between poor education and deprivation.”
“That is why we continue to target the academy program at underperforming and failing schools, with the Pupil Premium providing extra money for schools with children from the poorest homes.”
The report also showed that in almost one in five council areas children are still at risk of “significant harm”, as social workers struggling to cope with mounting workloads with many local authorities having failed to improve standards of care.
But the Department for Education fervently denies that cut budgets are a factor influencing poor care standards:
“OFSTED is absolutely clear that it is not financial pressures or numbers of children in care that is the big issue here – it is the quality of management and leadership,” said a spokesman.
“The law is explicit that councils need to do whatever it takes to keep children safe. The Government has formally stepped in each of these local authorities and OFSTED reports that in almost all cases, concerns have been ‘robustly addressed’.”