Newham’s disadvantaged pupils thrive aged five but fall behind at primary and secondary school

School children at William Davis Primary School enjoying their lunch as part of the Eat for Free pro

School children at William Davis Primary School enjoying their lunch as part of the Eat for Free programme. Picture: Andrew Baker - Credit: Andrew Baker

Newham’s disadvantaged five-year-old pupils do as well as their affluent peers but lag behind at primary and secondary school, research says.

The Education Policy Institute (EPI) study found disadvantaged five-year-olds in Newham are, on average, achieving the same if not better than non-disadvantaged five-year-olds nationally.

However, the borough’s primary school pupils are falling 7.6 months behind their peers and 7.5 months behind by the time they sit their GCSEs.

The EPI report, Closing the Gap, described disadvantaged pupils as those known to be eligible for free school meals in the last six years.

Its authors found the attainment gap nationally was narrowing “at a very slow rate” with it taking a further 50 years to close completely by the time pupils finish their GCSEs.

Pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds are on average 19 months behind their peers by the time they leave secondary school.

This matters as these young people are less likely to continue into post-compulsory education.

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They also tend to have lower average earnings, poorer health and are more likely to become involved with crime than their affluent peers.

Newham’s success at early education level can be attributed to the council’s co-working with other partners in improving the quality of nursery and childcare provision for children up to the age of five, a spokeswoman said.

This includes 15 hours of free eligible childcare - increasing to 30 hours under new government proposals - and effective workshop and advisory sessions on parenting, health and employment.

Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham, said: “The disadvantage gap has been entrenched in our nation’s education system for generations.

“Our approach is about breaking this cycle and ensuring all our young people, whatever their background, have the opportunity to succeed and fulfil their potential.

“The evidence proves our methods are working and our universal offers – Best Start in Life, free school meals, The Reading Guarantee and ECAM are truly making a difference in in narrowing the attainment gap.”

In July, the council committed to fully funding the cost of all key stage two paid meals for pupils from September 1 until March 31, 2018.