Commenting on the Education Policy Institute’s (EPI) disadvantage gaps in England report, NFER Research Director, Dr Lisa Morrison Coulthard said:
“This report from the EPI on the extent of the disadvantage gap shines an important light on the continued disproportionate impact of the pandemic on the attainment of disadvantaged children. There is a pressing need for Government to enable schools to target funding to those that are most in need, based on accurate and meaningful data. As we highlighted in our report investigating the changing landscape of disadvantage, we are also concerned that both the pandemic and transitional arrangements introduced to smooth the roll out of Universal Credit are affecting free school meal eligibility. Our research highlighted that, as a consequence, the composition of the disadvantage group is changing.
“Over the coming decade, it will become increasingly hard to tell whether apparent changes to the attainment gap are being driven by changes to the composition of the disadvantage group, economic conditions or genuine attainment changes. We strongly support the call for better linkage between datasets to enable more sensitive and accurate identification of persistently disadvantaged students. Moreover, we agree that further evidence is needed to better understand the factors that are most strongly associated with differences in attainment levels for vulnerable groups.”