Improving school attainment, progress and life chances of vulnerable and disadvantaged learners (pupils who’ve been eligible for free school meals at any point over the past six years) is one of our key challenges.
We are working closely with schools, key services and partners to provide services which will raise aspirations, make sure children are ready for school, and result in our most vulnerable learners making more progress and performing better at school.
Countywide the gap at the end of primary school has continued to narrow with more than 68 per cent of disadvantaged children reaching at least the expected level in reading, writing and maths at the end of this stage compared with around 85 per cent of their more advantaged peers.
I’m particularly encouraged to see good progress in Mansfield thanks to better year-on- year outcomes for disadvantaged pupils in the district. It’s concerning, however, that the gap has widened considerably in the Ashfield district. By age 16, whilst the gap widened slightly in Ashfield, it remained the same for Mansfield secondary schools.
We’re working closely with schools and academies from visits where we have concerns about children in care to working with the Regional Schools Commissioner to challenge specific academies to improve outcomes for vulnerable or disadvantaged pupils.
And we’re also working with partners to ensure schools develop those vital speech, communication and language skills, especially for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, which will help them with reading, writing and other areas of the curriculum as they move through school.
In the Mansfield area, a group of primary head teachers have been working together to explore how schools can improve the way they support disadvantaged learners who suffer loss and bereavement as part of Together for Mansfield - a local partnership of education, health, social care professionals.
It’s great that more disadvantaged two-year- olds are taking up their free childcare places. The county will also be trialling 30 hours free entitlement for eligible three and four year olds from September. So, although there’s strong evidence that services working together as children grow up and move through education is having a positive impact, we’re very aware that there’s no quick solution, but improving the long-term life chances of our most disadvantaged children is a commitment we fully support.