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New report highlights need to tackle regional disparity in school performance

30/11/2017 Joanna

Poorer students attending schools in London remain likelier to get good grades than those in more remote parts of the country, according to a new report.

Analysis from the Social Mobility Commission has revealed that the UK is currently divided between "hotspots" and "coldspots" in terms of social mobility, with remote rural and coastal areas and former industrial regions tending to perform worse on various measures, including educational attainment.

Whereas 51 per cent of children in London on free school meals achieve A* to C grades in their English and maths GCSEs, this falls to an average of 36 per cent of children on free school meals in all other English regions. In the best-performing region, Westminster, it was shown that 63 per cent of students achieved good grades, compared to only 27 per cent in the Isle of Wight, the lowest-ranked area.

These structural issues are manifesting at an early stage, with disadvantaged children being 14 percentage points less likely to be school-ready at age five in coldspots than in hotspots.  In 94 areas, less than half of all disadvantaged children were found to be reaching a good level of development at age five.

According to the report, this may be due to a lack of access to top teaching talent, with secondary teachers in the most deprived area currently seen as being 70 per cent more likely to leave and relocate elsewhere.

Moreover, schools in rural and coastal areas tend to be isolated and cut off from partnerships with other schools. In Lancashire and West Yorkshire, for example, only 19 per cent of schools are part of a multi-academy trust or an equivalent, compared to 35 per cent in north-east London and the east of England.

Alan Milburn, chair of the Social Mobility Commission, said: "Overcoming the divisions that exist in Britain requires far more ambition and far bigger scale; a less divided Britain will require a more redistributive approach to spreading education, employment and housing prospects across our country."

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