New research shows that deprived children do better in poor boroughs than in richer ones

Francis Gilbert's picture
A new think-thank, The Centre For London, published some interesting research today which shows that poorer students do less well at getting into university if they go to school in a richer borough. The research also finds that, in some poorer boroughs, students from the poorest neighborhoods actually do better than their wealthier peers at getting into university. The report illustrates how successful many inner-city schools have been at raising achievement while schools in richer boroughs have, relatively speaking, lagged behind. It ties in with some of my observations that students from poorer backgrounds can sometimes, though not always, suffer if they are in a "rich" school. It actually makes me think that we need to look more closely at the attainment gap in some of our most successful schools. The report also dispels the myth that inner-city schools are "failing" our children; in fact, the reverse is the case. This government has found it politically expedient to knock inner-city schools consistently as being havens of chaos and mayhem when, as the report shows, in fact they are doing very well. 





The report finds:

· The poverty penalty is higher in richer boroughs such as Richmond, Barnet and Sutton, whereas in the poorer boroughs including Newham, Tower Hamlets and Hackney the poverty penalty is virtually non-existent

· The poverty penalty is much more significant in parts of outer London: In Sutton, being from a deprived area means a young person's chances of going to a top-tier university are reduced by almost 25 per cent. Likewise, the penalty in Barnet is around 20 per cent


· Young people from deprived backgrounds perform better when they attend a school in deprived areas: Newham, Hackney and Tower Hamlets have particularly high proportions of deprived areas, but young people don't seem to suffer the same poverty penalty as other boroughs such as Merton and Bromley, which have low proportions of deprived areas

· In the boroughs of Westminster and Islington students on Free School Meals outperformed their peers in getting into university.

· In the boroughs of Tower Hamlets - one of the poorest boroughs in London - those from deprived areas outperform the average application success rate, including access to top the top-tier universities

Top-tier Universities
While the report's findings show some London schools have a track record of getting poorer kids to universities others are doing less well. Significant gaps remain across the city. This is particularly true when getting children to top-tier universities.

· Young people applying for university from the poorest parts of London are around half as likely to go to a top-tier university as other young Londoners: 12.5 per cent of applicants to top-tier universities were successful compared to 22.5 per cent of applicants across London as a whole

· In Richmond, the London borough with virtually no deprived areas, 42% of those applying to top-tier universities get accepted, whereas in Barking and Dagenham, one of London's poorest areas, only 12% do


Poverty penalty not inevitable
The report shows that a poverty penalty is not inevitable: London already has achieved significant results in widening access. Building on this experience will be crucial for the city further to improve its record on access.

Exam results in London have risen faster than across England over the last decade and London has a higher proportion of Local Authority schools judged by Ofsted to be excellent than the rest of England (30% versus 17%).

London's economic future depends on ensuring we have the talent needed for the city to compete in today's global knowledge economy.  Opening up access to higher education will ensure London retains its competitive edge.

London's success depends on ensuring that all young people are able to access the opportunities that higher education brings.

Rob Whitehead author of the report said: 
This report poses a challenge to the widespread assumption that the most disadvantaged always benefit from being educated amongst the middle class.  Our findings show that the high 'poverty penalty' borne by the most disadvantaged in terms of getting in to higher education is heavier in richer areas.  Remarkably, it has been removed altogether in some areas, mainly in inner London, thanks to the efforts of pupils, parents and teachers.  In a significant minority of London's schools poverty does not reduce young people's chances of an excellent university education. We can, and must, learn lessons from these schools to ensure that young Londoners of all backgrounds can fulfill their potential.

Stephen Evans author of the report said: 

Despite tough economic times, university remains for many the ticket to a world of opportunities. By 2020, one in two jobs in London will need high-level skills. It's crucial that we learn from the best and do all we can to continue to break down barriers to opportunity. Our findings are both a celebration of a London success story and a clarion call to do more and go further.
Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Be notified by email of each new post.


Gemma's picture
Tue, 22/11/2011 - 09:19

That's really interesting... think it through though.

What this means is that all should be grateful for sharp elbowed middle classes flying to the supposedly 'better' schools. They are doing the less well off a huge favour. And those who send their kids private... well imagine the hugely detrimental effect it would have on the poorest in society if they were forced back into state schools.

Strange times when an organisation like Demos is making arguments that favour private schooling, if favour, really of educational class apartheid. Strange indeed.

Nigel Ford's picture
Tue, 22/11/2011 - 12:47

From my reading it appears that this is as much a race issue as a deprivation one.

Areas like Sutton, Richmond, Bromley and Barnet etc have a higher proportion of white pupils where the poorest are performing less well than their deprived ethnic counterparts in boroughs like Tower Hamlets, Newham and Hackney.

I have reservations about unlimited immigration and some of the benefits of multiculturism but all the evidence shows that the improvement in London schools is largely due to the excellent performance of ethnic children, many from financially deprived neighbourhoods, so let's give credit where it is due. Such positive findings must point to a hopeful future for our mulitcultural country.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 22/11/2011 - 13:43

Nigel - you are correct about the excellent performance of children from an immigrant background - see my comment below which refers to research by the Education Endowment Fund (EEF) which suggested that one of the reasons for London's success was the large number of higher-attaining pupils with a South Asian background. EEF found that white British pupils posed the biggest challenge - this group comprised 70% of the poorest pupils in 'below floor' schools, and white British pupils in this group were "half as likely as Bangladeshi pupils, for example, to achieve expected standards in GCSEs".

The report actually raises more questions than it answers. It found that some schools in the capital do better than others and these tend to be in disadvantaged areas. The report then suggests that lessons can be learnt which could then be replicated (this may point to lessons learnt from the London Challenge). But there are also other factors to be considered: inclusivity, immigrant background and motivation.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 22/11/2011 - 13:29

The research shows that good teaching can make a difference. International evidence from the OECD found that in general all pupils do worse in schools where there is a majority of disadvantaged pupils. This was confirmed by the Education Endowment Fund (EEF) when they looked at "below-floor" schools. However, OECD found that some countries do better with disadvantaged pupils than others and suggested ways in which these pupils might become more "resilient" (see below for more information). It appears from the Demos report that some schools in London have found ways in which to develop resilience among disadvantaged pupils and these schools were doing better than schools in richer areas. In pointing this out Demos was not saying that disadvantaged and advantaged should be separated. Neither is Demos saying that this resilience would disappear if advantaged children returned to the successful schools; nor saying that if private pupils were "forced back into state schools" this would have a "hugely detrimental effect" on disadvantaged pupils. Rather, the report is saying that other schools could "learn lessons" from the successful schools and if these were replicated that all schools in the capital would do better.

When the EEF researched "below-floor" schools they found that London had the smallest proportion of "below-floor" schools. EEF suggested two reasons for this: major targeted programmes especially the London Challenge, and the high number of typically higher-attaining pupils from a South Asian background.

OECD also found that the best-performing school systems were the most inclusive - they didn't segregate pupils academically or by virtue of where they lived. It would be interesting to discover whether the schools in the areas which were more successful at getting pupils into universities were more inclusive than schools in other areas.

botzarelli's picture
Wed, 23/11/2011 - 18:17

I'm going to have to read the report because the account given of it doesn't support the headline.

There is a difference between the "poverty penalty" and the outcomes for deprived children that isn't remarked upon. Even if a deprived child in a Richmond school does 25% worse relatively than their non-deprived schoolmates this takes their chance of getting into a top university down from 42% to about 30%. On the other hand, any child in Barking and Dagenham, whether deprived or not, has a 12% chance of getting into a top university.

It is interesting that there seems to be a "poverty bonus" in Tower Hamlets, but even then it doesn't look like one that increases the deprived child's prospects there to anything approaching those they'd have in Richmond.

The report does possibly support David Cameron's warning to schools in affluent areas which might be coasting but it doesn't really provide any meaningful support for the contention that deprived children are better off in schools in deprived areas. At least not if the criterion of success in applying to top universities is important (which Francis Gilbert must think it is, otherwise he'd not have written the article to focus on it!).

Add new comment

Already a member? Click here to log in before you comment. Or register with us.