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Call for 'a decent education' for all

classroom Image copyright Thinkstock Image caption The report says there has been progress but it has been uneven

Access to good schooling in England is still "patchy" and more must be done to make sure all children receive a decent education, a report says.

The Fair Education Alliance (FEA) says while progress has been made in improving standards, this has been uneven, with some pupils missing out.

The FEA says more must be done, such as overhauling careers guidance and efforts to promote pupils' wellbeing.

Ministers say their policy is about achieving fairness and social justice.

In 2014, the FEA - a group of education organisations - published targets to be achieved by 2022, to help close the gap in opportunities and achievement between rich and poor children in England.

The goals were:

  • to narrow the gap in literacy and numeracy achievement in primary schools and at GCSE
  • ensure young people develop key strengths such as character and good mental health
  • narrow the gulf in the numbers of youngsters continuing their education and training after GCSEs
  • narrowing the gap between rich and poor students graduating from university.

The latest report looks at the progress made against these targets.

It says while there have been some advances in the past year - for example, GCSE results improving in the north-east England and the university graduation gap closing slightly - generally, progress has been static.

FEA chairman Sir Richard Lambert said the latest figures showed some schools and regions were providing high quality education for pupils, irrespective of background, and this must celebrated.

"More parents who can afford to make the choice are now choosing to send their children to state schools, many more of which are featuring in the lists of the nation's top performers," he said.

"But the big picture is still much too patchy. Progress is uneven, and in some cases non-existent. And the report shows that inequality is not just the result of income differentials.

"There is also a geographic divide between good and bad outcomes.

"On the current trajectory, the targets that we have set for reducing inequality in the school and higher education system by 2022 will not be achieved.

"That would leave another generation of young people condemned to second-class schooling through no fault of their own. So we have to redouble our efforts."

Image copyright Thinkstock Image caption The report calls for more investment in early years

The alliance calls for a number of measures to help raise standards and close the achievement gap:

  • more investment in early years education
  • ensuring all schools have access to good examples of top quality teaching and leadership
  • good careers guidance for all pupils
  • extra support for teachers, such as a mortgage deposit scheme to help high-performing school staff get on the housing ladder
  • promoting and measuring character development, wellbeing and mental health in schools

The report says: "At national level, some progress has been made in closing the gaps for some of the poorest children and young people in England.

"Despite small overall improvements in outcomes for these young people, progress is uneven and education still remains particularly unfair in some parts of the country.

"In mapping the education journey of children at schools serving low income communities or those from poor families, a school pattern emerges.

"Within the same area, poorer children are better served by some schools than others, and in these better schools they are achieving above expectation.

"Often underpinning this success are a whole school approach to achievement, enrichment activities, the development of character and high expectations."

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "The FEA's suggestion of a mortgage deposit scheme as an incentive to attract teachers to an area is an innovative approach which we welcome.

"Schools across the country are experiencing significant difficulties in recruiting teachers, and this is particularly acute in the most challenging areas.

"More must be done to attract people into teaching in general and in particular into these areas."

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "All of our reforms are underpinned by a total commitment to fairness and social justice.

"Thanks to our reforms there are now 1.4 million more pupils being taught in good or outstanding schools compared to 2010, and the attainment gap is narrower than ever.

"We have also introduced new, rigorous GCSEs so more pupils have access to the world-class education they deserve."

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