This month the Fair Education Alliance (FEA), a coalition of almost 90 organisations spanning business, education and the third sector, has published its third annual State of the Nation Report Card. In this blog post, FEA director Lewis Iwu outlines key priorities for UK government and schools, to ensure all young people are supported to fulfil their potential, regardless of their starting point in life.

Since the release of our last report card, the FEA has more than doubled in size, and we are proud to have welcomed organisations such as NACE that are doing great work to ensure that all children receive a world-class education.  

As an alliance, we have set five ambitious Fair Education Impact Goals which, if achieved by 2022, would mean significant progress towards closing the gap between the most disadvantaged young people and their wealthier peers. These five goals are:
  • Narrow the gap in literacy and numeracy at primary school;
  • ​Narrow the gap in GCSE attainment at secondary school;
  • Ensure young people develop key strengths, including character, wellbeing and mental health, to support high aspirations;
  • Narrow the gap in the proportion of young people taking part in further education or employment-based training after finishing their GCSEs;
  • Narrow the gap in university graduation, including from the 25% most selective universities.

Accelerated progress needed to close the gap

The year’s report finds that since last year there has been marginal progress made towards closing the gap between disadvantaged young people and their wealthier counterparts. For example, the gap in literacy and numeracy at primary level has narrowed from 8.4 months to 8.2 months, while the GCSE achievement gap has decreased from 13.1 months to 12.8 months.

However, the gap in permanent and fixed period exclusions remains stubbornly wide, and the gap in university entry has increased for the first time since 2010. On the current trajectory, we will not achieve the five Fair Education Impact Goals by 2022.

Inequality in education is still deeply entrenched in our country and our Report Card is a stark reminder of the scale of the challenge. As the UK seeks to reposition itself in the world, it becomes more crucial than ever that our young people are able to fulfil their potential irrespective of their parental background.

Five priorities for schools and government

We know that educational inequality is a complex issue to tackle – too complex for one institution or organisation to solve alone. But we believe that by combining the passion, talent and ideas of educationalists, charities and businesses, we can offer a strong collective voice that creates a lasting impact on young people’s lives.

In response to the findings, the members of the FEA have worked together to identify five key priorities:
  • School funding: A commitment from the government that national spending should not decrease in real terms on a per pupil basis.
  • Destinations and careers: Every primary and secondary school in England should have a designated and trained senior leader responsible for developing and delivering a whole-school approach to destinations.
  • Avoiding an expansion in selective education: The government should continue to resist calls to expand selective education in the future.
  • Measurement of social and emotional competencies: A framework of measures should be available to all schools in the UK to support their knowledge of the social and emotional competencies of their students.
  • Early years: The government should commit to ensuring that every group setting serving the 30% most deprived areas in England is led by an early years teacher or equivalent by 2020.
We’re extremely proud that the Fair Education Alliance has provided the platform for such a diverse range of organisations to come together and collaborate on this joint report and the recommendations that stem from it. You can read the full report here.

Lewis IwuLewis Iwu is the director of the Fair Education Alliance, leading the coalition of 86 organisations. He was previously a campaigns adviser at corporate advisory firm Brunswick, where he specialised in education and social policy.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017