Nearly half of pupils who are bright but poor and who excelled at their studies while at primary school will fail to get top GCSE grades, a new analysis reveals.
The education charity, The Sutton trust, says there is a class gap opening up by the time pupils leave primary school.
They found that just 4% of poor children are in the top academic 10% when in primary school, compared with 13% of wealthier pupils.
In a report, the trust says that disadvantaged children who have achieved the highest grades while in primary school have fallen behind by the time they take GCSEs.
Of these primary school high achievers, 52% of poor pupils end up with at least five A* and A grades at GCSE, compared with 72% of wealthier pupils.
Poor pupils had fulfilled their primary school potential
If the poor pupils had fulfilled their primary school potential, the trust says that 1,000 more pupils from a disadvantaged background would have got the top GCSEs each year.
The trend has also had an impact on grammar school entry with bright but poor pupils being half as likely as high achievers to enter a selective school.
The figures show that one in 17 poor pupils will enter a selective school, compared with one in eight wealthier youngsters.
Now the Sutton Trust says action is needed to address the ‘wasted talent’ and is calling for Ofsted inspections to consider school support for those disadvantaged but bright students.
GCSE scores for poor pupils
They also want GCSE scores for poor pupils who had high achievements previously to be published in a league table every year.
The trust adds there should be incentives for experienced teachers and subject specialists to teach in a disadvantaged school and for all pupils to have access to extracurricular activities that will help them learn important life skills.
The Trust’s founder, Sir Peter Lampl, said that too many young talented people from less well-off backgrounds fall behind in their school career as the barriers they deal with ‘take a toll’.
He added: “It’s essential we address this wasted talent.”
The report comes weeks before students receive their GCSE results and Sir Peter says that all youngsters should be given the chance of realising their potential – regardless of their background.
He said: “We need evidence of how to improve attainment of disadvantaged, highly able students and schools should be incentivised and monitored to do this.”