Disadvantaged pupils in Leeds fall behind their peers at school

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Pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds in Leeds are more than a year and a half behind their peers by the time they finish their GCSEs, new figures reveal.

The Education Policy Institute has warned that the figures indicate “a major setback for social mobility in our country”.

In its annual report, the EPI found that pupils on free school meals in Leeds were, on average, one year and eight months behind their peers at the end of secondary school, a measure they call the ‘disadvantage gap’.

For the first time in several years, the difference in GCSE scores between poorer pupils and their peers has widened slightly.

In Leeds, almost a third of secondary school students are disadvantaged - eligible for free school meals - and around one in 10 pupils have been eligible for most of their school lives (persistently disadvantaged). In England, persistently disadvantaged pupils trail almost two years behind on average.

David Laws, executive chairman of the EPI, said: “Educational inequality on this scale is bad for both social mobility and economic productivity. Recent progress on narrowing the education gap between poor children and the rest has ground to a halt.”

School standards minister Nick Gibb said that the disadvantage gap had “narrowed considerably” since 2011.

He said: “During that time, this government has delivered a range of reforms to ensure that every child, regardless of their background, gets a high-quality education.”