Nearly 75% of vulnerable Birmingham children are failing at school

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School leaders’ union the NAHT speak out about the harmful impact on the life chances of looked-after children, pupils in care and those with a child protection order

Nearly three-quarters of children in need in Birmingham failed to meet the expected standard in writing, reading and maths last year, new figures show.

Across England, looked-after children, pupils in care and those with a child protection order performed worse compared to all pupils in the 2022-23 academic year.

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School leaders’ union the NAHT said the disadvantage gap will continue to have a harmful impact on vulnerable children’s life chances unless the Government invests in services supporting schools.

Department for Education figures show 108 of 379 children in need in key stage two in Birmingham met the required standard for reading, writing and maths in 2022-23 – the equivalent of (28%). Meanwhile, 59% of all pupils in Birmingham met the standard.

Across England, 30% of vulnerable children were up to the requirements for reading, writing and maths compared to an average of 60% of all children. The figures for all pupils include the number of children considered in need as well.

While the gap remained the same since 2018-19, both groups had a worse performance. Before the pandemic, 35% of children in need made the grade, while 65% of all pupils did.

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Children in a classroomChildren in a classroom
Children in a classroom | PA

The figures also show 46% of key stage two children in need in Birmingham reached the expected standard for reading, 42% for writing and 43% for maths. For all pupils, 70% met the standard in reading and writing, while 73% did in maths.

‘This trauma can impact their educational progress’

Pepe Di’Iasio, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Children in social care have often gone through hell and unfortunately this trauma can understandably impact on their educational progress as well as their social and emotional wellbeing.

“Schools work hard to support them in all respects, but they are having to do so without enough funding, staff or specialist support. In addition, social care departments are also under huge pressure.”

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Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said: “The Government clearly hasn’t done nearly enough to support children’s recovery from the pandemic, and it is depressing that this has further harmed those children who need help the most.

He said while teachers do their best to support pupils, they are not equipped to tackle the root causes of poverty. “The disadvantage gap will continue to have a pernicious impact on children’s life chances, especially the most vulnerable, and it will only begin to close when the Government properly invests in those services that support schools’ social care, family support and mental health services,” Mr Whiteman added.

Department for Education reacts to the findings

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We want to make sure that children from all over the country, regardless of background, have the same opportunities to succeed and attain the highest levels.

“We have made almost £5 billion available since 2020 for education recovery initiatives, including high quality tutoring for the children who need the most support. We are also supporting disadvantaged pupils through the pupil premium, which is rising to almost £2.9 billion in 2024-25, the highest in cash terms since this funding began.”

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