A Nottinghamshire county councillor says closing the gap between disadvantaged pupils and other learners on how well they do at school in Worksop and the wider district, remains a challenging priority.
Coun John Peck, chairman of the council’s children and young people’s committee, says improving school attainment, progress and life chances of vulnerable and disadvantaged learners is one of their key challenges in Bassetlaw.
In the context of this issue, Coun Peck defined ‘disadvantaged’ as all pupils who have been eligible for free school meals over the past six years.
He said: “We are working closely with schools, key services and partners to provide services which will raise aspirations, make sure children are ready for school, and result in our most vulnerable learners making more progress and performing better at school.
“In Bassetlaw, the gap at the end of primary school has continued to narrow with nearly 71 per cent of disadvantaged children reaching at least the expected level in reading, writing and maths at the end of this stage – slightly ahead of the national average and outperforming most other county districts – compared with around 82 per cent of their most advantaged peers.
“By aged 16, whilst the gap widened in Bassetlaw between 2014-15, what’s encouraging is that results for disadvantaged pupils were the highest in Nottinghamshire and considerably better than disadvantaged pupils nationally.
“We’re working closely with schools and academies from visits where we have concerns about children in care to working with the Regional Schools Commissioner to challenge specific academies to improve outcomes for vulnerable or disadvantaged pupils.
“Together for Worksop (TfW) – a local partnership of town council, education, health, social care professionals – is now in its second year and early indications are positive.
“So far TfW has focused on initiatives which include making sure children are ready to learn when they start school and as they move through school.
“And an estimated 2,000 children from eight schools in the district have benefited from taking part in our ‘Take Five’ pilot project which uses methods to reduce stress and increase calmness amongst pupils.
And it will soon reach more Bassetlaw pupils thanks to the national funding we’ve secured.
“TfW will also look at improving support for looked-after children and other pupils where English isn’t their first language.
“And we’re also working with partners to ensure schools develop those vital speech, communication and language skills, especially for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, which will help them with reading, writing and other areas of the curriculum as they move through school.
“It’s great that more disadvantaged two-year-olds are taking up their free childcare place and our Children’s Centres are also supporting our work to improve the life chances of all our children.
“The county will also be trialling 30 hours free entitlement for eligible three and four year-olds from September.
“So, although there’s strong evidence that services working together as children grow up and move through education is having a positive impact on narrowing the gap, we’re very aware that there’s no quick solution, but improving the long-term life chances of our most disadvantaged children is a commitment we fully support.”