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Too Young to Fail: Giving all children a fair start in life (2013)

20 Jul 2018

Fewer than one in six children from low-income families who have fallen behind by the age of seven will go on to achieve five good GCSEs, including English and maths.

Disadvantaged children go on to face more limited chances in their adult lives. This is in large part because of an enduring ‘achievement gap’: the gap in outcomes between disadvantaged children (in this country measured by uptake of free school meals) and their better-off peers (those not entitled to free school meals).

This gap means that by the time they are seven, nearly 80% of the difference in GCSE results between rich and poor children has already been determined. Given how critical literacy and numeracy are to gaining employment and success in later life, this is of particular concern.

Through no fault of their own, children as young as seven are on course for poorer life chances before they have even started. This unfairness is unnecessary and preventable. For example, new analysis in this report shows how some local areas do better than others. In some local authorities, close to 80% of the poorest children are achieving the expected level of achievement in both English and maths by the time they finish primary school, while in others, fewer than 60% are achieving at this level. If instead all primary schools were performing as well as those in the top ten local authorities each year around 7,000 more children, or around 50,000 by 2020, would have attained good levels of literacy by the end of primary school. 

Further to this, there is a growing body of evidence on the policies and interventions – including parental engagement to one-to-one tuition – that work to help ensure no child falls behind in primary school. Early-years provision, support for the parents of young children and a greater focus on primary education are vital for children’s learning and their future lives. 

Hollie Warren, and Will Paxton. 2013. Too Young to Fail. Save the Children.

Download the full report