‘Poorer pupils in disadvantaged "opportunity areas", designated for extra help by the government, are lagging almost two years behind better off counterparts elsewhere in England.
A study for the Ambition School Leadership charity found deprived youngsters in these six areas were 20.1 months behind at GCSE level.
Schools minister Nick Gibb said it showed the importance of targeting support at areas that were "the most challenged when it comes to social mobility".
There have been six opportunity areas named by the government so far - Norwich, Blackpool, Derby, Oldham, Scarborough and West Somerset - with the promise of more to follow.
There will be £60m of extra spending to promote social mobility in these areas, such as linking schools to businesses, universities and careers advisers.
The study shows how far "persistently disadvantaged" pupils - who have been eligible for free school meals for four out of five years - have fallen behind in secondary school.
They were found to be the equivalent of 20.1 months behind the average for children who were not on free school meals in other parts of England.
Pupils in the "opportunity areas" who were not on free school meals were also behind their counterparts in other parts of England - by 4.7 months.
The study looked at pupil achievement between 2010 and 2015 and found that the gap had widened.’ - BBC News
‘The report has been compiled by a new education charity, Ambition School Leadership (ASL), which identifies and develops high-quality school leaders and places them in challenging schools as a way of improving attainment and extending equality of opportunity to children across the country.
It finds that the progress gap in the government’s six opportunity areas has grown every year from 2010 to 2015 – increasing by 3.6 months for non-disadvantaged pupils and 8.3 months for persistently disadvantaged students.
It also reveals that schools in these areas were most likely to see a fall in Ofsted’s grading of their leadership and management. About 18% of schools rated as having “good” or “outstanding” leadership in 2010 went down to “requires improvement” or “inadequate” by 2016.
The report concludes: “Action is needed to stop the decline in progress in disadvantaged areas. We must increase the number of high-quality leaders in these areas and support those in post, so that schools have enough leaders capable of improving school performance, closing the progress gap and ensuring positive outcomes for pupils.”
Last week the government’s social mobility commission delivered its annual state of the nation report which found that “Britain has a deep social mobility problem which is getting worse for an entire generation of young people”.
“The rungs on the social mobility ladder are growing further apart,” said Alan Milburn, the former Labour MP who chairs the commission. “It is becoming harder for this generation of struggling families to move up.”
Commenting on the ASL report, Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said: “We know that social disadvantage easily becomes entrenched, with low educational attainment and poverty exacerbating each other.
“We also know that without the right interventions and support, the most disadvantaged pupils tend to fare the worst. Headline-grabbing government policies like grammar schools rarely work for these children. Ensuring they get great teaching from the earliest age does.” ‘ - The Guardian