Education 'wealth gap' widens in Sunderland

Disadvantaged secondary school pupils in Sunderland fell further behind their classmates during the coronavirus pandemic, new figures show.
School attainment data.School attainment data.
School attainment data.

Department for Education figures show 23.5% of disadvantaged children in Sunderland achieved grade five or above in GCSE English and maths in 2021-22, compared to 51.8% for all other children – a gap of 28.3%.

That is up from 27.4 in 2018-19, the last academic year uninterrupted by Covid-19.

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In England, the attainment gap also widened, and education charity SHINE said it is "saddened but not surprised" to see disadvantaged children fall behind.

Nationally, 29.5% of disadvantaged children reached grade five or above in English and maths, whereas 56.8% of all other children achieved the grades.

It means the attainment gap rose from 25.2 percentage points in 2018-19 to 27.3 in 2021-22.

Dr Helen Rafferty, senior programme manager at SHINE, said: "We know that children from poorer backgrounds lost out on more learning than their wealthier peers because of the pandemic and are most in need of stability and support from schools and teachers.

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"Now the cost-of-living crisis and mooted cuts to already-stretched school budgets risk widening the gap even further."

She added: "Additional funding should be targeted at children and schools who experience persistent long-term disadvantage. Educational equity should be a top priority for any government".

The Department for Education said it is rolling out a £5bn education recovery programme following the pandemic.

A spokesperson added that targeted investment for areas in need is also being provided to improve standards for pupils across the country.