36 years is too long to be playing catch-up

Posted by Dan Breslin / Thursday 03 August 2017 / Early intervention Inequality

The challenge facing disadvantaged children is laid bare in new analysis by the Education Policy Institute.

Their new report, Closing the Gap?, makes for grim reading. Children who are persistently disadvantaged, those eligible for free school meals for at least 80% of their time at school, are on average more than two years behind their peers by the end of secondary school.

Unsurprisingly, disadvantaged children are already falling behind long before they sit their GCSEs.

Gap for disadvantged children

By age five disadvantaged children are already 4.3 months behind their more affluent peers. Since 2007, the gap has only closed by just 1.2 months. At this rate it will take 36 years for gap to disappear.

To put that into context, by the time the gap is gone High Speed 2 would have been up and running for 20 years, we will all be driving electric cars and the country would had seen at least seven general elections.

This rate of progress is not good enough. The government has invested in early education but neglected other crucial areas that help children get the best start in life.

Children’s centres are closing at a rate of six a month. The programmes they deliver which help children’s development are most likely to be cut by councils struggling to deal with budget shortfalls.

With one in three children aged five and under living in poverty, more needs to be done to ensure families have the resources they need to support their child’s early development.

We urgently need the Government to review current early years provision, identify where gaps exists and act. There is a dire need for funding, leadership and clearer direction for local authorities to shape and deliver key outcomes.

Without this disadvantaged children will be left playing catch-up from the minute they reach the school gate.

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