Poor students in England’s schools are more likely to be excluded than they are to receive five good exam passes, a charity reveals.
The teacher trainer charity Teach First says it has carried out an analysis and found that 10.3% of those pupils who are on free school meals passed the English baccalaureate (Ebacc) in 2017 with at least Grade 4s.
However, 10.7% of students on free meals had faced temporary or permanent exclusion from their school in the same period.
Students are deemed to have passed the Ebacc if they gain five GCSEs in maths, English, a language, the sciences and geography or history.
However, pupils receiving free school meals are three times more likely to be excluded from school than other students are.
44,000 students experienced a permanent or fixed term exclusion
The charity says that 44,000 students experienced a permanent or fixed term exclusion in the 2016/2017 academic year.
Currently, around one in four students achieve the Ebacc though the government is aiming for 90% of GCSE students to choose the Ebacc subject combination by 2025. Originally the deadline was set for 2020.
The Russell Group, which consists of 24 leading universities, says the Ebacc is highly valued though it’s not an entry requirement for university.
Teach First is also voicing its worries about the new GCSEs and how they are awarded.
Less than 25% of pupils from a disadvantaged background received a good pass in maths and English last year – while half of other students did so. In half of local authorities the proportion was even lower.
‘Poor young people appear to lack guidance and support’
The chief executive at Teach First, Russell Hobby, said: “With lower GCSE attainment and higher rates of exclusion it is a cause for concern that poor young people appear to lack the guidance and support they need for succeeding in schools and to keep their options open and meet aspirations.”
He added: “Exclusion is a hot topic in education and whatever the opinion of Ebacc is, there’s no denying the subjects are valued highly by universities.
“We need young people to have access to high standards of education, regardless of their family income or background.”
Critics of the Ebacc say that the non-inclusion of some subjects, including art, have seen a steep decline in participation of those subjects.
Fall in student numbers taking humanities and languages
Recently the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, Geoff Barton, said the fall in student numbers taking humanities and languages at A Level was ‘a terrible indictment’ on Ebacc’s impact.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “Our priority is that all students have the opportunity of going as far as their talent will take them, regardless of their background.”
He added that growing numbers of students are taking the Ebacc and the difference in attainment between affluent and disadvantaged pupils has shrunk at various levels.