The Social Mobility Commission urged the Government to force schools in Northumberland and other “low-performing areas” across the country to take part in improvement programmes.
A State of the Nation report by the Commission said that an “unfair education system” is at the core of increasingly worse life chances for this generation of children and young people.
It states that the “deep-seated social gradient in how well children do in schools has not been flattened”, despite progress in narrowing the attainment gap between poorer children and their better-off peers.
The Commission, chaired by Alan Milburn, urged the Government to “mandate” the ten lowest performing local authority areas to enrol in area-wide improvement programmes than can see all ‘inadequate’ schools progress to ‘good’ by 2020.
The ten local authority areas found to account for one in five of the country’s children who are in failing schools are: Blackpool, Knowsley, Northumberland, Doncaster, Reading, Stoke-on-Trent, Oldham, Bradford, Telford and Wrekin, and Central Bedfordshire.
The State of the Nation report states that a child living in any of the above areas is 27 times more likely to go to an inadequate school than a child in the most advantaged.
One of the Commission’s key recommendations is for the Government to radically redistribute resources within the education budget to get more investment and better-quality services to the children who need them most. The report suggests doubling the Early Years Pupil Premium to £604 per child per year and extending it to include disadvantaged two year olds that are eligible for 15 hours of free early education.
It also recommends that the Government rethinks its plans for more grammar schools, as the Commission is not clear how these will “make a significant positive contribution to improving social mobility”. The Commission calls the creation of new grammar schools “at best a distraction and, at worst, a risk to efforts aimed at narrowing the significant social and geographical divides that bedevil England’s school system.”