Regional disparities between educational achievement

18 January 2016

A new report by the Social Market Foundation has found that school grades are significantly linked to the area students live in. The report was released to mark the launch of the SMF’s new ‘Commission on Inequality in Education’ and present its preliminary findings which have focussed on inequalities in educational attainment at ages eleven and sixteen, and how these trends have evolved over time.

The test results of different cohorts of children were investigated, comparing the primary and secondary school grade results of those born in the 1958, 1970, 1995/6 and 2000. Comparison between the groups found that the geographic region a student lives in has become a much more significant factor over time, particularly widening between those born in 1970 and those born most recently, in 2000. For example, the GCSE performance of 16 year olds (born 2000) showed significant variations between different regions, with over 70% of pupils in London attaining 5 GCSEs (marked A* – C) compared to just 63% of those living in Yorkshire and the Humber.

The report also found that regional differences between grade attainments were identified as early as the end of a child’s primary education. The analysis also found that whilst the significance of regional area has grown, areas such as the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber, the West Midlands and East Midlands, have consistently under-performed and worsened over the past three decades.

Emran Mian, the director of the Social Market Foundation commented:

“While parental income remains very important, this new research shows that where you live has become a much more important factor in determining educational achievement.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman told the BBC:

“In a recent report the Public Accounts Committee found the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers has fallen at both primary and secondary level.”

“However we recognise that there is more to do – we are expanding the Teach First and Schools Direct programmes and launching the National Teaching Service, which will mean more great teachers in schools in every corner of the country, so that we can extend opportunity to every single child and ensure all schools can recruit the teachers they need.”