Education secretary Michael Gove has attacked a culture of low expectations surrounding the poorest children in England, claiming that more needs to be done to ensure all children have the same opportunities.
Professionals in teaching jobs have an important role to play in ensuring that the achievement gap is lowered between children from different economic backgrounds.
Currently, Mr Gove believes that a person's parentage has more bearing on their school progress in England than in any other country.
He told a conference of head teachers from independent schools at Brighton College that schools in other countries are showing how this "stubborn" gap can be closed.
"Deprived pupils in Hong Kong and Shanghai, who struggle with challenges far greater and more debilitating than any we know here, achieve as highly as their English peers from the most comfortable homes," Mr Gove said.
The education secretary cited statistics indicating that only 24 per cent of disadvantaged students from the UK perform better than expected, compared with 76 per cent in Shanghai and 72 per cent in Hong Kong. Other European countries also fare much better than England, with 46 per cent of students from this demographic exceeding expectations in Finland.
Within the OECD, the average is 31 per cent, meaning that people in teaching jobs across the UK have some way to go to catch up with Poland, Greece, Slovenia, Mexico and Chile, in terms of equal opportunities in education.
"It is entirely possible for children to break free of the bonds of poverty and disadvantage, transforming a deprived start into a bright future," he said. "If we want more children to enjoy these advantages and opportunities, we have to look at what characterises these successful schools.
Posted by Tim Colman