Inequality in education is worse than 30 years ago, research suggests

Inequality in educational achievement between regions has worsened over the last three decades, research finds.

New research by think tank Social Market Foundation (SMF) reveals that regional disparities in education outcomes at age 11 and age 16 have “remained stubborn”. The geographical area that a child comes from has become a more powerful predictive factor for those born in 2000 compared to 1970, according to the research.

Areas such as the North East, Yorkshire and Humber, the West Midlands and the East Midlands have persistently under-performed, while London’s performance has surged.

The research found, for example, that more than 70 per cent of pupils in London achieve five good GCSEs compared to 63 per cent in Yorkshire and Humber.

The thinktank’s analysis also reveals that regional inequalities in attainment are already apparent by the end of primary school.

This morning, former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg will launch the SMF’s new commission on Inequality in Education – an independent, cross-party initiative examining the causes and effects of inequality in education at primary and secondary levels in England and Wales.

Speaking at the launch, MP Nick Clegg will say: “What is now becoming clear is that inequality in education comes in many shapes and sizes. It is not just the relative wealth of parents that holds large numbers of bright kids back – it is postcode inequality, too. What part of the country a child grows up in has a real impact on their life chances.”

The SMF’s analysis for the commission also shows that a very low proportion of pupils who receive Free School Meals achieve five A* to C grades at GCSE level (40 per cent), compared to those not receiving Free School Meals (70 per cent).

Emran Mian, director of the SMF, said: “While parental income remains very important, this new research shows that where you live plays a bigger role in determining educational achievement.”

For the research, the SMF analysed how well children aged 11 performed over three generations – those born in 1958, 1970 and 2000 – using verbal reasoning tests that could be compared accurately across all three groups.

The commission will report its full findings early next year.

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