Delegates at Ofsted South East Leadership Conference last week discussed how to reduce the attainment gap between wealthier pupils and their poorer counterparts.
The conference was attended by senior local authority officials, school leaders, college leaders, early years improvement officers, representatives of academy chains and trusts and Ofsted inspectors.
Attendees discussed how they are improving outcomes for disadvantaged pupils and shared examples of best practice.
While students in the south-east perform well, the attainment gap between richer pupils and those who are eligible for free school meals (FSM) is one of the widest in England.
There are promising signs that some institutions are beginning to reverse the trend. Schools in Windsor and Maidenhead have managed to improve outcomes for disadvantaged students considerably.
However, challenges remain in other areas, such as Wokingham, Mole Valley, Wealden, Brighton Pavilion and New Forest West. In these locations, there were no schools where the attainment gap between those eligible for FSM and their more affluent counterparts was better than the national average during 2012.
Last year, Ofsted's Unseen Children: access and achievement explored the attainment gap in areas suffering from high levels of deprivation. Sir Michael Wilshaw told the conference he intends to publish another landmark report in 2018, which will revisit the issues explored in the previous study.
"When I write this report, I would like to write about the impact schools in the south-east have had in improving outcomes for disadvantaged young people. I want to write about the huge increase in poor pupils from the south-east attending our prestigious universities. I want to write that the attainment of poor White pupils in the south-east is better than the national average," Sir Michael commented.
He said this was the dream but charged delegates with the task of making it a reality.
At the conclusion of the conference, inspectors met with school leaders and local authority officials to plan their strategy for the next 12 months.
Ofsted says it will continue to work to narrow the attainment gap and improve outcomes for disadvantaged youngsters in the months ahead.
Posted by Alan Douglas