A new report by Ofsted has warned that staff in education jobs in more affluent parts of England need to do more to help improve the performance of their poorer pupils.
Last year, 36.3 per cent of pupils eligible for free school meals attained five GCSEs, including in English and maths, at grades A*-C, compared to 62.6 per cent of all other children.
Now the education watchdog has published a study, 'Unseen children', highlighting the changing geography of educational attainment among pupils from deprived backgrounds.
Whereas schools in inner London were once the worst performing in the country, the capital now boasts England's best performing schools, while their counterparts in other major cities like Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham have also shown significant improvement.
By contrast, Ofsted has found the most disadvantaged pupils are now instead being let down by the education system in coastal towns and rural, less populous areas, particularly in the south-east and the east of England.
Moreover, the watchdog criticised schools in relatively affluent parts of the country, like Kettering, Wokingham, Norwich and Newbury, for failing to support and challenge their poorer pupils.
Launching the report in central London, Ofsted's chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw asserted: "We need new policies and approaches to deal with underachievement in these areas.
"Poor, unseen children can be found in mediocre schools the length and breadth of our country. They are labelled, buried in lower sets, consigned as often as not to indifferent teaching. They coast through education until - at the earliest opportunity - they sever their ties with it."
Sir Michael stated Ofsted would therefore in future re-inspect schools previously rated outstanding but found to be doing poorly by their poorer off pupils and implement sub-regional challenges designed to improve attainment by disadvantaged children.
He also recommended the government review how primary teachers assess pupils in reception classes and at key stage one, with a view to publishing progress measures between these stages of education.
Commenting on the report, a Department for Education spokesman stressed the government's commitment to closing the attainment gap between poorer pupils and their peers, citing as an example the targeting of funding at more disadvantaged children through the pupil premium initiative.
Posted by Charlotte Michaels