New Opportunity Fund to boost provision for bright, disadvantaged children

17 Aug

It is now official.  Bright children from disadvantaged backgrounds are underachieving.  Some time ago, the Sutton Trust were banging the drum for them.  Rebecca Allen, Director of Datalab who carried out the research for the Trust, revealed that a much higher proportion of children on free school meals or from disadvantaged backgrounds were unable to go on from primary SATs to secondary GCSEs and achieve similar results – even for those in the highest 10% of results at state primary school level in England.

The Social Mobility Commission had pointed out in the past that disadvantaged children of all ages underperform.   Allen’s research specifically compared the results of most able disadvantaged children at the primary stage with their later results in GCSEs.   She discovered that one of three boys eligible for free school meals – where households earned £16,000 or less annually or on benefits – who attained top marks at the end of Key Stage2 failed to feature among the top 25% of those at GCSE level.   Meanwhile, a quarter of disadvantaged girls who attained top Key Stage 2 results, failed to feature in the highest quarter of GCSE grades.

Allen wondered: “The highly able Pupil Premium children had the school and home support to do really well at primary school, so why do things go so wrong for some of them at secondary school?

“Nobody’s looked at how this happens; what sort of qualifications highly able Pupil Premium children take, or where this missing talent is in the country. Obviously, it is in areas that are underperforming generally, but there are also areas with good schools that nevertheless do poorly for highly able children.”

Eight out of the 10 worst performing local authorities were in the north of England or the Midlands. However, the research showed that Coventry, Leicester and Lambeth had highly able children falling behind.  Authorities that were bucking this trend were Barnet, Ealing and Hackney (in London), and Reading, Slough and Trafford.

To address this malaise, the government has earmarked £23 million in the shape of the Future Talent Fund.  It is to be used to support the brightest pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds to reach their potential.   Applications are open for organisations to manage the fund, which will run to 2020.

The Future Talent Fund will be deployed to test new, innovative ways of helping bright children to perform consistently well as they move through the different stages of education so that they don’t fall behind their richer peers.  The fund manager will evaluate pilot projects from January 2019. The objective of the projects is to stem the rot of poor, bright pupils dropping off in their academic performance from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 4.

There will be two bidding rounds for 30 projects.  The scheme will champion best practice and “encourage evidence-led interventions, including those that could be funded by schools using the Pupil Premium”.

From September 2018, organisations will be eligible to apply for grants from the Fund, including state-funded schools and multi-academy trusts, charities and research organisations, independent schools and universities.   “Projects supported by the fund must be delivered in non-selected state-funded schools/academies in England”.   They must cover at least one of the following strands of work.

  • Curriculum: such as broadening or deepening what is covered in the curriculum
  • Pedagogy: for example, individualised teaching, the use of digital technology or feedback
  • Parental involvement: which could include aspiration interventions, engagement through technology or behavioural insight techniques
  • Mentoring and tutoring: including academic mentoring, community-based mentoring, school-based mentoring, one-to-one tuition, group tuition or peer tutoring
  • Transition between key stages: such as summer schools or transition practices in schools
  • Enrichment activities: which could include after-school classes, extra-curricular activities or visits

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