What is educational inequality?
This isn't a tale to be proud of. In the UK, the link between low socio-economic background and poor educational attainment is greater than in almost any other developed country.
Educational inequality starts early, before a child even starts school. Figures show a one year gap in 'school readiness' between 3-year-olds, and a 15 month gap in vocabulary development between 5-year-olds, in the richest and poorest families.
"My house is on a quiet, big street. It’s a bad area as there is nowt to do.
Everyone here is the same background. We all have problems, but most solve it by drinking on Friday and Saturday. It gives the area a bad reputation.
In Year 7 and 8, I would disagree with teachers, whatever they said, I’d bunk off lessons. I did it because everyone else around me was doing it.
I’m thinking that if I don’t buck up my ideas I won’t get my GCSEs and that means no job, no life really.
I don’t want to be the one doing nothing in my family. I now don’t answer back as much. I stay in lessons. It isn’t easy, but you have to do it if you want to achieve."
Young person from a Teach First partner school
And the gap doesn't stop there. It continues and widens throughout school and has an impact throughout a child's life. At GCSE level, nearly 50% of children claiming free school meals achieve no passes above a D grade.
All of this has a knock-on effect on future earnings - the more you learn, the more you earn. In fact, over the course of a lifetime, a graduate from a Russell Group university will earn on average £371,000 more than someone who left school with fewer than 5 good GCSEs.
What's more, education is linked with happiness and wellbeing as well as mental and physical health and life expectancy. You are more at risk of spending time ‘not in education, employment or training’ if you have no qualifications. And, statistics show that spending time NEET is a major predictor of later unemployment, low income, depression and poor mental health.
Education matters to society – it is linked to crime rates and the economy. In 2008, over 50% of all males and 70% of all females in the adult prison population had achieved no qualifications at school or college.
It doesn’t have to be this way
Demography doesn’t have to be destiny. This attainment gap so entrenched in our society is not inevitable. Change is possible.
At Teach First we are working in partnership with others to ensure that no child’s educational success is limited by their socio-economic background. We believe that the scale of change needed will only be achieved through the collective effort of leaders in classrooms, in schools and throughout society.
Each must challenge and change the status quo child by child, classroom by classroom, school by school, community by community until educational inequality becomes a work of fiction, not fact.