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Laws warns that schools must close achievement gap

11/03/2013 Joanna
The schools minister has said that primary school teachers will be expected to help more of their pupils reach a higher standard ahead of their going onto secondary schools.

Last year, 38 per cent of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds achieved grades A*-C in at least five GCSEs, including in English and maths, compared to 65 per cent of non-disadvantaged children.

Speaking at the Association of School and College Leaders' 'Closing the Achievement Gap' conference, David Laws stated that this was one of the widest disparities in educational achievement in the world and branded it "unacceptable".

He said the government was undertaking two policy actions in order to reduce this gap, the first of which was getting primary teachers to improve the readiness of pupils, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds, for starting secondary school.

Mr Laws announced that schools would next year be expected to help at least 65 per cent of their pupils achieve the floor standard at key stage two, up from 60 per cent this year and warned schools that this target proportion would continue to rise rapidly in future.

Furthermore, he added that as of 2016, passing new key stage two tests would require pupils to demonstrate the level of ability necessary to ensure success at secondary level.

In preparation for this, the government will this year publish figures showing the share of pupils at each school who achieve a good level four at key stage two in each subject.

The schools minister asserted: "From now on, we must prepare the vast majority of children for success in secondary education - not for failure or mediocrity."

He said that the second policy priority in closing the achievement gap was to ask local authorities and schools to place more focus on redressing this issue.

Via the pupil premium programme, schools will receive nearly £1.9 billion of funding targeted at pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds in 2013-14, rising to £2.5 billion in 2014-15.

Yet Mr Laws said the government wanted to ensure schools achieved value for money from the pupil premium and would place greater accountability requirements on schools rated as requiring improvement and with low attainment for disadvantaged pupils.

These schools will be required to collaborate with a 'system leader' with a record of success in narrowing gaps to draw up an action plan for utilising the pupil premium, which will also be scrutinised by education watchdog Ofsted.

Posted by Charlotte MichaelsADNFCR-2164-ID-801553814-ADNFCR
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