worrying: Disadvantaged Surrey pupils are falling behind
Concern has also been raised that the brightest pupils from less well-off backgrounds are being overtaken by lower achieving, more advantaged pupils by the time they hit the age of 7, with the gap widening further into secondary education and into higher education.
The figures were revealed in a report to Surrey County Council’s Children and Education Select Committee this month. They come despite millions of pounds being given to schools through the Government’s Pupil Premium scheme, which was designed to give extra funding to disadvantaged school children.
Children in the county who are not eligible for free school meals, due to coming from an affluent background, are three times more likely to achieve five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C, including English and maths, than those who are eligible for free school meals, according to the latest statistics.
The same figures show a child from a well-off background is also more than twice as likely to go on to study at university as a less advantaged classmate.
The attainment gap in the county has now grown to well above the national average with the average difference being 26 achievement points compared to 19 points nationwide.
Under the Pupil Premium scheme, schools were given £1,300 for children in Reception to Year 6 and £935 for those in Year 7 to 11.
The extra funding has helped in some cases, with the proportion of children able to claim a free school meal who are achieving a good level of development rising from 26 per cent in 2013 to 38 per cent in 2014 – although this is well below the national average of 45 per cent.
The money is paid to the schools for each child registered as eligible for free school meals, although Surrey County Council’s report suggests many schools are not receiving all the money they are entitled to because parents are not registering their children as eligible.
According to the report: “Surrey has one of the highest percentages of eligible pupils failing to claim free school meals – 29 per cent in 2013. As a result the schools do not qualify for the Pupil Premium payment.”