Pupils from poor families who attend a school dominated with pupils from similar backgrounds are two and a half years behind their middle-class peers in education by the time they reach 15, a study has revealed.
Around 50% of pupils who are classed as being disadvantaged will be sent to a secondary school where fellow pupils are from similar poor homes because admissions are determined by postcode.
Now the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) says these disadvantaged schools are struggling to attract the best teachers, despite having more money to spend on recruitment because of the pupil premium, a top-up payment for children classified as being disadvantaged.
The OECD says in its report ‘Equality in Education’ highlights that because of weaker teaching the pupils will struggle and this is not helped by secondary school education that focuses largely on exam results.
77 points ahead on the Pisa international test scores
The report points to pupils attending a school dominated by middle-class classmates will end up 77 points ahead on the Pisa international test scores by the age of 15.
That equates to two and a half years of schooling.
The OECD’s director of education, Andreas Schleicher, said that the UK needs to work towards ‘levelling the playground’ between advantaged and disadvantaged schools.
He added: “The country needs to do better in matching the teacher talent with needs and the pupil premium is the starting point, but having more teachers may not necessarily be the solution.
“It’s about getting the right teachers into disadvantaged schools and making it attractive for them, not just financially, to work in the circumstances to help build a career around challenges.”
The report says that teachers in other countries are sent to disadvantaged schools or attracted by the promise of carrier challenges and innovative methods of teaching.
Little incentive for a teacher to leave London
Researchers highlight that there is little incentive for a teacher to leave London, which has high performing schools, and head to the north-east of England or to coastal towns where there is lower educational attainment.
In these areas, schools struggle to attract subject teachers with correct qualifications and, as a result, many of them will teach outside of their subject.
Mr Schleicher said: “You have regressive teacher allocation currently where a school in greater disadvantage faces a bigger shortage of qualified teachers.”
However, the report highlights that underprivileged children in the UK do disproportionately better in schools that have a good disciplinary regime.
This is not measured by punishments for rule breaking but by the school’s own environment in which pupils trust and respect teachers and teachers have high expectations to challenge pupils.
Also, disadvantaged pupils in the UK are among the world’s unhappiest with only pupils in Turkey scoring worse.
15% of disadvantaged pupils feel they are satisfied with life
The report says that just 15% of disadvantaged pupils feel they are satisfied with life, free from exam anxiety and are socially integrated at school.
The average is 26% in the OECD study and pales in comparison to the Netherlands score of 50%.
The founder of the Sutton Trust, a social mobility charity, Sir Peter Lampl told a national newspaper that he was worried about the news that poor students are nearly three years behind their better off peers.
He said: “Our research shows there is a lack of qualified specialist science teachers for state schools and this disproportionately affects disadvantaged pupils.
“But education gaps are opening up earlier and the early years’ nursery provision should focus on quality, not quantity.”
The general secretary of the NAHT, Paul Whiteman, says the report is ‘alarming’.
He said: “Despite two decades of sustained effort and improving school standards, narrowing the gap between poor and rich students is taking too long.”