Damian Hinds, Education Secretary, made a major speech this week focused on social mobility and education, which sought to understand disadvantage and challenge oversimplified concepts, such as the so-called ‘North/South divide’ in education.
Hinds said “To unlock social mobility, obviously you need to understand what holds people back. New data and analysis are giving us key insights on the nature of educational disadvantage, and how it has been changing. Parental income obviously matters but there are multiple other factors to consider, and these factors can and do overlap and reinforce each other.”
This fresh look at understanding the complexity of disadvantage is welcomed by Schools North East which has worked hard to question and challenge the stereotype of the ‘North/South divide’ in educational attainment. The research behind this oversimplified concept has been questioned by academics, including Michael Jopling, Professor of Education and Director of the Education Observatory in the Institute of Education at the University of Wolverhampton, in his article Is there a North–South divide between schools in England?
Hind’s speech follows a recent DfE report which highlights how different types of disadvantage converge to detrimentally affect student’s social mobility. The report shows that children who had been in contact with a social worker at any time since year 5 achieved on average 20 grades lower at GCSE than their peers, meaning they get two grades lower in each of 10 GCSEs.
Also highlighted, in a second DfE report this week was that pupils in cities outperform their counterparts in coastal areas. Measured against Attainment 8 subjects, students in coastal areas generally achieve three grades lower.
However, research by Education Data Lab has highlighted that when looking specifically at the Progress 8 scores of ‘high impact’ disadvantaged pupils they found little geographical difference in performance, challenging the idea that policies should focus on geography and arguing for policies with national coverage to focus on disadvantaged groups.
Moreover, a higher proportion of students from coastal areas are considered to be ‘disadvantaged’ (eligible for free school meals in the last six years) with this group accounting for 25% of all pupils in these areas, yet only 13% in London.
DfE Report – Help, protection, education: concluding the Children in Need review
DfE Report – Outcomes for pupils at the end of KS4 by geography