Places for outstanding primary schools overwhelmingly filled by wealthiest students

Jen Offord

A new report by education charity Teach First has outlined the ways in which the education system conspires against the most deprived children's chances to thrive. Social mobility could be hindered throughout a child's school years and well beyond, with the first barriers appearing at an alarmingly young age.

Citing a previous study, the report states that at just 22 months old, a child's development could be used as a predictor for their education outcomes in adulthood. The research found that in the last 10 years half a million children, disproportionately from a low-income background, failed to be ready for school by the age of five.

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Continuing into the education system, the research found that children from poorer homes were half as likely to attend an outstanding primary school than richer children. Just 15% of children from the poorest 30% of families attended an outstanding primary school compared to 27% of the richest 30%.

Further still, wealthier parents were considerably more likely to appeal against their child being sent to a school that was not their preference, with 78% saying they would do so, compared to 68% of less well off parents.

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The trend continues throughout a child's education and into university even, with one in 12 freshers from low-income backgrounds compared to around one in 20 from wealthier families dropping out, each year.

The research, which was undertaken by education charity Teach First was released on Monday (17 April) as parents wait to hear whether their children will be allocated their primary school of choice in September. It was compiled by comparing official data on income deprivation and information from Ofsted inspections.

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Teach First said the findings were damning and its chief executive Brett Wigdortz said: "We know that all families care about giving their children the best possible start in life, but as outstanding schools are unfairly concentrated in richer communities, poorer families are finding themselves priced out.

"As a society, we must challenge the idea that where a child is from, or how rich their parents are, determines whether they get access to an outstanding education."

The Department for Education said 1.8 million more children were in good or outstanding schools than in 2010, but said it was doing more to ensure more places were available. A spokesperson told the BBC: "We have already set out plans to make more good school places available – including scrapping the ban on new grammar school places, and harnessing the resources and expertise of universities, independent and faith schools."

Meanwhile, responding to the research and the Conservative Party's plan to increase grammar school places in order to improve social mobility, Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner said in a statement: "Theresa May's only answer to the social mobility crisis is her discredited policy of new grammar schools, which by definition ignores the crucial early years of a child's life and does nothing to ensure all children go to a good primary school.

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