Does ‘the gap’ matter to children eligible for free school meals?

March 26, 2013

IOE LONDON BLOG

Rebecca Allen

David Laws, the Liberal Democrat Minister for Schools, has been making a series of speeches over the past month about “closing the gap” in the attainment between pupils from deprived and more affluent backgrounds. Yesterday, he warned that schools should not be judged as outstanding by Ofsted if they failed to close the gap, a goal that sounds fair and even laudable in principle, but I believe is rather unfair in practice.

The “gap” is the difference in GCSE achievement between the average for pupils who are eligible for free school meals and the average for those who are not. Pupils eligible for free school meals have similar characteristics across schools since they all come from families claiming some sort of benefit. The problem is that the background of pupils who are not eligible for free school meals (FSM) will vary considerably across schools, since the group includes…

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Academy conversions: why money doesn’t always talk

September 20, 2012

IOE LONDON BLOG

Rebecca Allen

Thousands of primary and secondary schools have chosen to convert to academy status (the chart below covers secondary education). A survey by the think-tank Reform showed that financial considerations were the most widely cited reason for conversion, as predicted by many, including The Guardian.Pie chart showing share of pupils by school type in May 2012

The financial gains arise because academies can directly claim their share of the Local Authority Central Spend Equivalent Grant (LACSEG) (pdf) in recognition of the fact that as independent schools they no longer receive a number of services from local authorities (LAs), and must make appropriate provision for themselves or do without these services. LACSEG money is spent by local authorities on:

  • Educational disadvantage: pupils with special needs but without statements, behaviour support services, educational welfare services, 14-16 practical programmes, assessing free school meals eligibility
  • Educational enrichment: music services, visual and performing arts, outdoor education, museum and library services
  • Risk sharing across schools

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