Schools aim to help poorer children in Essex do better

Education bosses want to close the attainment gap for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Stock image.

Education bosses want to close the attainment gap for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Stock image.

Education chiefs in Essex are working to improve attainment levels for pupils from poorer backgrounds.

Although Sats and GCSE results in the county are continuing to improve, disadvantaged students – those entitled to pupil premium funding – typically do significantly less well than their fellow pupils.

The gap is widest at GCSE level, where in 2015 just 35% of youngsters from a disadvantaged background achieved five or more A*-C grades including English and maths, compared to a 64% rate by their peers.

At Key Stage One the gap ranges from 15 percentage points in maths to 21 for writing between disadvantaged pupils and those from better-off backgrounds achieving level 2B+, while at Key Stage Two 68% of pupils achieved a combined level 4+ from a disadvantaged background, compared to their peers who achieved an 85% in 2015.

Essex County Council hosted the Essex Pupil Premium conference at Chelmsford City Racecourse in Great Leighs last week in a bid to encourage schools to work together to close the gap.

More than 300 people, representing around 200 schools, attended the event which was geared at sharing ideas, resources and best practice.

Ray Gooding, county councillor for education, said: “We want to ensure all children get the best start in life and raising the attainment of disadvantaged children is a key priority.

“I am very pleased so many schools are showing a real commitment to ensuring all pupils receive the best possible education, regardless of their background.

“Schools play a vital role in equipping children for future life and it is important we do everything possible to break down any barriers to achievement for all pupils.”

Themes covered at the conference included the need for an improved understanding of the real barriers faced by children from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as for schools to have higher expectations of disadvantaged pupils and constantly review their approaches.

The conference also coincided with the launch of a new pupil premium toolkit for schools, while the Raising Attainment for Disadvantaged Pupils steering group, which has representatives from both County Hall and various Essex schools, will meet soon to discuss further opportunities for improvement.

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