A child’s attainment at school can impact their life chances, alongside the productivity of the wider economy. Disadvantaged children have, on average, lower attainment than other children, known as the disadvantage gap. This gap exists when children start school and gets larger, on average, throughout a child’s education.
Recent data indicate that the disadvantage gap is wider than before the COVID-19 pandemic, with disadvantaged children more negatively affected by school closures and periods of home learning.
Supporting the attainment of disadvantaged children is a priority for the Department for Education (DfE), as reflected in its priority outcome to level up educational standards and in its 2022 Schools White Paper.
For most purposes, DfE uses the term ‘disadvantaged’ to describe pupils eligible for free school meals at any point in the last six years and children who are looked after by the local authority or who have left care.
Our report will examine whether DfE’s support for the attainment of disadvantaged children in educational settings, from early years up to the end of key stage 4, is achieving value for money.
We will consider:
- whether DfE has a coherent approach, based on evidence, to support the attainment of disadvantaged children
- if DfE’s oversight and support to help early years providers and schools support the attainment of disadvantaged children is effective and efficient
- how funding is being spent and what progress is being made to support the attainment of disadvantaged children
Director: Emma Willson
Audit Manager: Elisabeth Moore