New report into the attainment of bright but disadvantaged pupils
April 19, 2015
The University of Oxford, in partnership with the Sutton Trust, has looked into the achievement of ‘bright’ students from a socio-economically disadvantaged background from the age of 11 to 18. The researchers defined ‘bright’ as those pupils at age 11 who obtained a Level 5 in maths, English or science – the level expected of 14 year olds. The report, entitled Subject to background, looks at the factors that promote better achievement for disadvantaged pupils.
The report found that, at the age of 11, ‘bright’ disadvantaged pupils were three times more likely to have a mother with a University degree, twice as likely to have experienced a ‘good home’ environment in their early years, twice as likely to have participated in sports or other ‘enrichment activities’ such as music or the arts, twice as likely to have attended pre-school and twice as likely to have gone to a primary school that was academically successful.
As a child got older, other environmental factors came into play. Bright disadvantaged pupils obtain statistically better GCSE results when they engage in enrichment activities outside of the curriculum. This included ‘educational outings’ or ‘reading at home’. Schools also have a role to play and the report identified the following factors as being important:
there was a high emphasis on learning in the school
the headteacher had an active presence in the school and took part in school activities
students felt that they were valued by the school
the relationship between students and teachers was positive and there were bonds of ‘trust, respect and fairness’
In terms of successful A level results, the report highlighted that attendance in a successful pre-school, an engagement with enrichment activities at home and visits to museums, galleries and reading opportunities were important between the ages of 11 and 14. Students who reported spending ‘significant amounts of time’ completing homework in year 11 were also 9 times more likely to get better A level grades.
The report recommends that there needs to be an added emphasis on extracurricular enrichment for bright disadvantaged pupils, more opportunity for them to go to the best schools, good feedback on their work from teachers, the opportunity for disadvantage pupils to attend a good pre-school, support to engage in self-directed study and guidance to help bright disadvantaged pupils enter higher education.