Behind the Education Headlines in August
Schools consider how budgets will stretch budgets this year
In August, schools considered three or four-day weeks as a way to stay within budget in the face of massive pressures in the wake of unfunded staff pay increases and rising energy costs. Schools also considered shortening the school day and reducing the number of clubs and enrichment opportunities.
Although school funding per pupil in England rose significantly over the 2000s, from 2010 it fell by 9% in real terms. The government increased school funding by £7.1 billion between 2019 and 2023 which increased spending per pupil by over 8% - however, this is still 2% lower in real terms than 2009/10. Despite the government's plans to level up the UK's poorer areas, the National Formula has seen the most privileged schools receiving a 9% increase in funding compared to the least privileged receiving 5% between 2017 and 2023.
Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has calculated that the increased costs are "just about affordable" for the next year but they are predicting that spending will fall in coming years and real-term cuts will follow.
2022 Results Day
As GCSE and A level results are released, August is always an exciting and nerve-wracking time for schools and students.
This summer's exams are the first set of results from examinations in three years. After two years of fantastic grades, the government planned for grade distribution to return to pre-pandemic levels after two years of teacher assessments.
This year, 75% of pupils undertaking their GCSEs received a grade 4 and above compared to 79% last year. 27% of students received an A grade or above which is in between the levels in 2019 and 2021. 36% of A-level entries were awarded either an A or an A*, compared to 44.8% last year.
The results also highlight the continued difference in outcomes between children in the more affluent south and the more deprived north. One-third of the GCSE grades that were awarded to students in London were A grade or above, compared to 22% in the northeast.
It is fair to say that these pupils have achieved these results in times of challenge. They have spent the last three years having their education disrupted by Covid and the huge upheaval that has brought. We wish them all the very best for the future!
No improvement in school attainment gap
heDespite 20 years of policies aimed at reducing the attainment gap between more and less privileged students, it is as large now as it was 20 years ago. Although GCSE results have been increasing, students who are eligible for free school meals are still 27% less likely to earn good GCSE results than their more privileged counterparts. Less than half of students from a disadvantaged background reached the expected attainment at the end of primary school compared to over 65% of more privileged students. 40% of disadvantaged students who reach the expected attainment achieve good GCSEs, compared to 60% of better-off students.
This failure at school level has lifelong implications. An average 40-year-old with a degree earns twice as much as an average 40-year-old who only holds GCSEs.
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