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Education data shows the way

Education data shows the way
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Chris Dunne (Letters, 30 March) draws attention to the research showing the “London effect” on school performance to be closely related to ethnic composition. Data analysis by Education Datalab draws similar conclusions, with clear recommendations for action to address the persistent inequalities in pupil performance.

They show that the impact of disadvantage is higher for pupils who have been eligible for free school meals for 90% or more of their time in school; and it is lower for most minority ethnic groups, particularly where they are the majority of a cohort. In the north of England, 79% of pupils are in the high-impact group, compared with 30% in London. In the north, 41% of schools have more than 20% of their pupils who are long-term disadvantaged, compared with 2% in London.

The proportion of schools with 50% or higher of low-impact long-term disadvantaged (most minority ethnic) pupils is 7% in London and 63% in the north. They conclude that to close the gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged groups action should focus on: pupils who are the most disadvantaged (and particularly those eligible for FSM for 90% or more of their time in schools); groups where the impact of disadvantage is high (mainly white pupils); schools where the proportion of minority ethnic pupils in the cohort is lower than 50%.

They conclude that additional funding should be on the basis of demographic differences rather than differences in school effectiveness in order to focus on areas where need and impact would be greatest.
John Gaskin
Driffield, East Yorkshire

Chris Dunne makes a critical point: the vital importance of using high-quality research to inform education policy. The work of Professors Simon Burgess, Stephen Gorard (Durham), and Becky Allen (UCL) – among others – have shown us where schools education policy does and doesn’t work, our problem is in near impervious nature of many politicians and their advisers to recognising the evidence and its implications. Perhaps it is time to lock the secretary of state for education in room with a few well-chosen heads and education researchers to agree a set of long-term principles for schools education in England.
Michael Cross
Richmond, Surrey

One of the main reasons why London schools do better was the long lasting and visionary success of the London Challenge.
Janet Mansfield
Aspatria, Cumbria

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