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EPI report finds little change in disadvantage gap

By Rachel Lawler
Children playing
The disadvantage gap has remained largely between 2016 and 2017, according to the Education Policy Institute’s (EPI) Annual Report for 2018.
The gap between disadvantaged children and their peers was said to be an average of 4.3 months. The EPI said that there has been “little change” in this since 2016.
Little progress
The EPI compared the average total point score on the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile to previous years. In 2017, the average total point score was 34.5 – the same as in 2016. However, in the years before 2016, the average level of attainment had been increasing.
The report also highlights regional differences in the disadvantage gap, with “a band of low primary outcomes” between Merseyside and Yorkshire as well as in Nottinghamshire, West Sussex, Bristol and Plymouth.
Closing the gap
The EPI estimates that at this rate, it will take more than 100 years to close the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers at secondary level.
The report recommends that the government ensure that all children have access to high-quality early years provision, as this supports healthy development, while also offering a chance for children with additional needs to be supported at an early age.
High-quality early years provision
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said: “It is both disappointing and concerning to see that, despite much government rhetoric on the issue, there has been such little change in the attainment gap in this country over recent years.
“As this report rightly points out, equal access to high-quality childcare and early education plays a key role in ensuring that children from more disadvantaged backgrounds have the same opportunities as their peers. But of course, this has to be supported by sensible government policy and EPI is also right to point out that current early years policy - and in particular, the 30 hour and tax-free childcare - does little to help achieve this aim, disproportionately benefiting wealthier families over and above those more in need of support.
"It is by now well-established that if you want to improve a child's life chances, you need to start in the early years. If the government truly is committed to 'closing the gap', it must not only invest what's needed into the sector, but also make sure that this money is being spent where it will have the greatest impact."
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