‘No prospect’ of GCSE gap between rich and poor closing, warns damning report

The TES reports that it would take 120 years for poorer pupils to become as likely to achieve A levels as their richer peers, warns Social Mobility Commission. The damning report into social mobility says there is “currently no prospect” of the grades gap between poorer children and their peers being eliminated at GCSE or A level. 

The Social Mobility Commission, in its report, also warns that it would take 40 years, at current rates, to close the attainment gap at age 5. And it estimates that it would be about 120 years before poorer young people become as likely to achieve A levels or equivalent qualifications as their richer peers.

“Whole tracts of Britain feel left behind,” Alan Milburn, chair of the commission, writes in the foreward to the report “Time for Change“, adding: “If we go on as we have been, the divisions that have opened up in British society are likely to widen, not narrow.”

Researchers used a traffic light system to assess progress in improving social mobility at key stages in people’s lives – early years, school, training or further/higher education – and then into the world of work.

No stage was given a green light. Early years and schools received an amber rating, while the later “young people” and “working lives” stages received a red rating.

  • In early years: the commission says it was “disappointing” that the billions invested have not had a greater impact on the attainment gap. And it adds that impending changes, such as the 30 hours of government-funded childcare, which many providers will struggle to deliver, “risk sending progress into reverse”. The report recommends doubling the early years pupil premium and more training for those working in early years.
  • In schools: the commission says there had been significant progress in reducing the attainment gap at primary school, but the gap increased substantially at secondary school. It recommends that the government takes more responsibility for ensuring there is a good supply of teachers, and that good teachers are supported to work in challenging schools.
  • In further and higher education: the commission warns of very little progress, saying that the number of young people who are not in education, employment or training has barely changed. It recommends ensuring that careers advice and support are available in all schools through the curriculum.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “There are 1.8 million more pupils in ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ schools than in 2010, and we are delivering 3 million apprenticeship places, opening up access to our higher education system and investing £500 million a year into technical education. However, we know that more must be done, and that’s why last year we launched our £72 million Opportunity Areas programme. This is bringing together local businesses, schools and councils in 12 social mobility ‘coldspots’ to create better opportunities for young people.”

Read more ‘No prospect’ of GCSE gap between rich and poor closing, warns damning report

What would you suggest? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

Don’t forget you can sign up to receive our daily email bulletin (around 7am) with all the latest schools news stories. Your details will never be given to anyone else and you can unsubscribe at any stage. Just follow this link 

We now have a Facebook page - pls click to like!


More recent posts...



Department for Education discloses gender pay gap
Swinney urges cross-party support for education reforms
Categories: Exams, Infant, Primary and Secondary.


  1. Report is worthy but states the obvious. The issues are quality of parenting and home life, cultural capital, educational experience of parents, aspirational environment and quality and availability of teachers. Given austerity measures, O hours contracts, lack of social housing, lack of mental health provision and difficulties in improving challenging schools in areas of low resource there can be no surprise that this gap is not narrowing.

Let us know what you think...