Commenting on the second and final instalment of the Education Policy Institute’s 2023 Annual Report, which focusses in particular on the attainment gap for students in 16-19 education, Daniel Kebede, General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
"Thirteen years of Conservative rule equate to thirteen disastrous years in education policy. A culture of short-termism and short-sightedness, much of it driven by an unwillingness to listen to the profession, has taken a significant toll on the prospects for young people who have grown up during this era.
"Education should be about levelling the playing field for every child regardless of their background to ensure they get an equal chance in life. Yet as this report from the EPI clearly shows, the situation for students from disadvantaged backgrounds is worsening, and the decimation of services makes the dream of a level playing field all the more distant. A lack of rented or social housing undermines life chances. Schools and colleges see the impact this has on their students every day, where they arrive hungry, tired or with unsuitable clothing and shoes for the weather. The unfair and relentless poverty trap faced by so many young people, clearly makes learning harder.
"Schools and colleges do all they can to support those students who are most in need but a teacher recruitment and retention crisis alongside inadequate funding and support services make this task all the harder. The National Funding Formula has siphoned money away from the areas in greatest need meaning the poorest bear the greatest burden.
"It is evident that the removal of the Educational Maintenance Allowance was a critical blow for 16-19 students, and the need for its reinstatement is obvious. Too many disadvantaged students are now having to work increased hours on top of school work to make ends meet and this will inevitably have an effect on their attainment.
"Right now, 4.2 million children in the UK are growing up in poverty. The cost-of-living crisis alongside Government policies such as the two-child benefit cap have plunged the equivalent of 9 children in every class of 30 into poverty.
"Reducing child poverty must be at the centre of any credible plan to deliver good educational and life outcomes for more young people.’’