Gill Furniss MP Labour Member of Parliament for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough
Plain text version:
The Rt. Hon. Gavin Williamson MP
Secretary of State for Education
Department for Education
20 Great Smith Street
Sent via email
Thursday, 12 August 2021
Re. disparities in A Level and GCSE results
Following this week’s A Level and GCSE Results Days, I am writing to you regarding the growing disparities in results between the richest and poorest students.
Data shows that whilst 70% of A Level results in independent schools were A* or A, this falls to 39% for comprehensive pupils. This disparity continues to widen, with an increase in top grades of 9.3 percentage points for private schools compared to 6.2 percentage points among comprehensives. For pupils with free school meals, the increase was only 1.4 percentage points. Hence whilst much has been said on the record increase in top grades, this is being disproportionately fuelled by private schools whilst those from the poorest backgrounds are being left behind.
Similar trends can be seen in this year’s GCSE results. Data released by Ofqual shows that children on free school meals were less than half as likely to achieve a Grade 7 (A). Private schools have once again far outstretched their state counterparts. The attainment gap between those on free school meals and their peers has grown by almost a third since 2019.
I am deeply concerned by the impact this will have on my constituents. The proportion of pupils who receive free school meals in my constituency of Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough is significantly higher than the national average. Therefore, the widening inequalities in educational attainment will have a particularly negative effect on pupils in my constituency.
The levelling-up agenda must tackle this serious and growing issue. Pupils’ grades must be determined by their ability and effort, not their postcode. Whilst Labour have put forward a £15bn recovery package to invest in every child, research estimates that the Government’s lacklustre support means that over half a million children will leave school without catch-up support this summer.
You have stated that the findings of the review of time spent in school and college will be set out later this year ahead of the spending review. To properly fix the mounting crisis in education, key underlying factors such as classroom sizes and inequalities in the distribution of education funding must be addressed as part of this. These issues disproportionately impact pupils from the poorest backgrounds and this feeds into the shocking inequality of A Level and GCSE results we have seen this week.
I urge you to carefully look into what actions need to be taken on the back of these results.
Gill Furniss MP
Member of Parliament for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough