Grade gap between Wokingham's poorest and richest one of country's worstBy Jon Nurse
January 25, 2013
The grade gap between Wokingham’s poorest pupils and their peers has been revealed to be one of the country’s worst.
The Minister of State for Schools, David Laws, has put pressure on the borough council after Key Stage Two statistics shamed schools’ results.
He is asking the authority to set out its plans to improve its performance in a bid to urgently tackle the gap.
Exam results for 11-year-olds in Wokingham revealed 83.96 per cent of children not receiving free school meals reached at least level four in both English and Maths last year, but the equivalent figure for children receiving free school meals was just 52.87 per cent.
The difference of 31.08 per cent is one of highest in the country.
Mr Laws urged the council to narrow the gap when he contacted 15 local authorities following the release of the results last month.
In his letter, Mr Laws said: “The Government is committed to closing this gap between disadvantaged children and their school peers.
“To that end we have created and funded pupil premium for all 87 children in Wokingham borough in receipt of free school meals.
“We acknowledge that you have made good progress in beginning to close this gap over the last year by 4.99 per cent, but nevertheless there is clearly still a long way to go.”
A Wokingham Borough Council spokeswoman said: “Closing the gap in the performance of underachieving groups is a priority for us and it drives what we, our partners and our borough schools do.
“We’re making good progress.
“For example, we’ve been raising awareness about the issue with our headteachers and we have provided support and advice to our schools in addressing the needs of children and young people who have been underachieving.
“We have introduced a ‘achievement for all’ programme in early years settings and schools, promoted strategies for ‘hard to reach’ families and underachieving groups, and have targeted work to monitor the progress and education plans of children in care.
“We have also worked through our adviser for Traveller children to promote good attendance and family engagement with education to raise achievement.”
The council has set up a working group, chaired by the executive member for children’s services Councillor Charlotte Haitham Taylor, to co-ordinate the council’s actions to narrow the gap.