Children who are eligible for free school meals do worse at school, even at five-years-old, finds survey

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7th September 2022 12:14 - Education

Children who are eligible for free school meals do worse at school, even at five-years-old: A survey looking at inequality in schools has uncovered that disadvantaged children do worse in their studies than their more advantaged peers. Even at the age of five, just 57% of children eligible for free school meals were judged to have a good level of development, compared to 74% of all other pupils, according to the findings.

The study by The Conversation observed school children of varying ages from across the UK and found that the disparity between those on free school meals and those who are not is consistent throughout the education system. Children eligible for free school meals correspond to, roughly, the poorest 15% of children.

When looking at English and Maths GCSE results, just four in 10 children eligible for free school meals were judged to have good English and Maths skills; compared with 69% of all other pupils.

Once students are 19 years old, those with less privileged backgrounds are less likely to have two or more A-levels (35%), compared to their more privileged peers (60%), found the study.

In addition, 71% of the qualifications held by 26-year-olds who attended an independent school were 'degrees', compared with just 17% of those who had a deprived upbringing. Overall, a third of all qualifications obtained by the age 26 are degrees, according to the research, further showing the inequality between lesser and more privileged households.

Since 2006, children who are eligible for free school meals have performed worse at GCSE level than their peers by an average of 28%. In 2019, seven in 10 of those who were not eligible for free school meals achieved good English and Maths GCSE grades compared with four in 10 pupils on free school meals.

The poll also found that just 5% of those in the poorest 10% of families achieved the top grades ( A and A*) at GCSE level, compared with 35% of those in the top 10%.



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