- The education reform agenda has been built on choice. But those at the bottom of the economic pyramid often have the least control over their educational experience
- A new report by Andrew Lewer MP identifies three groups who would benefit most from changing this: ‘looked-after children’, those from poorer backgrounds, and children in ‘inadequate’ schools
- It makes three key recommendations for how to give those children and their loved ones greater control over their futures, and help them close the education gap
By putting choice at the heart of education reform over the last two decades, the UK has made significant progress. However, more still needs to be done to help some of the country’s poorest students.
‘Choices for Children’ highlights three groups who have been left at risk of falling behind. Chief among them are children in care: only 12.1% of ‘children in need’ get 5s or better in both English and Maths GCSE, versus 49.8% of other pupils.
An extraordinary programme run by the Royal National Children’s SpringBoard Foundation gives such children the chance to go to independent or boarding schools, and benefit from their structure and high standards. An independent evaluation by the University of Nottingham found that boarding pupils were four times more likely to get five good GCSEs, and made five months’ more progress in their Attainment 8 scores. Some 75% continued to higher education, compared to 13% of other children in need. And 31% went to a higher tariff university, compared to only 2% of other children.
This report argues that we should expand this programme – at negligible cost to the taxpayer – by letting such children take their share of education funding with them, delivering some of the best education in the country to the children who need it most. It also suggests that families from poorer backgrounds should receive a ‘Parent Premium’, to be spent on tuition or after-school activities of their parents’ choice, to help them bridge the education gap. And that when failing schools are being turned around, families should be allowed to express a non-binding preference for which academy trust takes over the school.