RSA report finds that children in poorer areas have fewer academic choices
Research by charity The RSA has shown that pupils living in poorer areas have dramatically fewer academic options than their richer counterparts.
The report points to ‘subject deserts’ that exist in some UK areas, meaning that children in poorer areas are either denied access to, or strongly discouraged from studying, certain subjects.
For example, in North East Lincolnshire, 50 per cent of the ten schools in the LEA did not offer a triple science GCSE; in Sussex and Cumbria, all schools – over 30 in each local authority – offer triple science GCSEs.
Children living in Kensington are four times more likely to be enrolled for a language GCSE than children in Middlesbrough, and children in Portsmouth are four times more likely to be enrolled in an art GCSE than children in Kingson-upon-Hull.
There is a particular focus on the correlation between deprivation and triple science access. In Sutton (Outer London), almost half of students (46 per cent) are enrolled in three science GCSEs. In contrast Knowsley in the North West has only one in ten pupils taking triple science.
The correlation seems consistent: for triple science enrolment, ten of the top 20 LEAS were from the least deprived areas of the country, and the only two from the most deprived were in inner London. Nine of the bottom 20 were from the most deprived quintile.
The report highlights the stark difference between Hammersmith & Fulham and Knowlsey. They have roughly the same number of schools (7 and 8 respectively), and a similar number of pupils eligible for free school meals. Yet the average number of science GCSEs per pupil is more than double in Hammersmith & Fulham (2.05) than in Knowsley (0.97).
Some schools are taking specific steps to combat the trend. The report highlights the case of the John Smeaton Academy in Leeds, where for many years he only opportunity to study science was through B-Tec. After feedback from parents, and having been placed in special measures, the school now offers biology, chemistry and physics at GCSE and A-Level, with small classes of between eight and 12 pupils.
Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on TwitterLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.