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Poorer UK children 'held back despite achieving similar grades to richer peers'

05/12/2016 Joanna

A new report has raised concerns that children achieving similar grades at GCSE level are not seeing the same opportunities, with income continuing to play a key role in their future social prospects.

Analysis from the Social Mobility Commission has indicated that only 24 per cent of children eligible for free school meals attend higher education, compared to 42 per cent of those from more privileged backgrounds.

Poorer children were shown to be twice as likely to drop out of education at 16, while only 21 per cent of children on free school meals went on to study three A-levels, compared to 47 per cent for their richer counterparts.

Of particular concern is the fact that in many cases, these discrepancies are occurring despite similar levels of performance in GCSE exams, suggesting students are not receiving the same chances to continue their development despite demonstrating comparable degrees of academic potential.

It was also shown that white working-class boys were the demographic least likely to go into higher education, while girls were much more likely to attend university than boys. Often, students with good GCSE results are unable to maintain their progress because they drop out of school, or else select unchallenging A-levels that hamper their chances of attending top universities.

Social Mobility Commission chair Alan Milburn said: "When low-income youngsters from the same area with the same school results are progressing less than their better-off classmates, that is not about lack of ability. It is about lack of opportunity."

The report highlights the need for the government and education sector to devise new schemes and incentives to help support students from poorer backgrounds, in order to help them achieve their potential at GCSE level and beyond.

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