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Department for Education written question – answered on 2nd October 2019.

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Photo of Bridget Phillipson Bridget Phillipson Labour, Houghton and Sunderland South

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what the implications for his Department's policies are of the finding by the Children's Commissioner for England in her report, Growing Up North, published in March 2018, that pupils from London who have had free school meals are twice as likely to go to university than equivalent children in the north.

Photo of Bridget Phillipson Bridget Phillipson Labour, Houghton and Sunderland South

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what the implications for his Department's policies are of the finding by the Northern Powerhouse Project in its 2018 report, Educating the North, that disadvantaged pupils in the north achieve attainment levels 1.3 percentage points less than the national disadvantaged average and 6.5 percentage points less than their disadvantaged peers in London.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education)

Against a background of rising standards, disadvantaged pupils in schools are catching up with their peers as since 2011, the attainment gap in England has narrowed by 9.5% at age 16 and 13.2% at age 11. Our reforms and the extra funding provided through the pupil premium have contributed to this success.

This year, schools in the North of England are receiving £787 million in additional funding through the pupil premium to improve the outcomes of their disadvantaged pupils. The Department has made available a wide range of resources to help schools make the greatest possible impact with their pupil premium grant.

The Department is investing £72 million in the 12 Opportunity Areas to tackle barriers preventing children and young people from achieving their potential. This is at the heart of our work to learn what works best in areas with entrenched social mobility barriers so we can roll out successful approaches across the country. Five of the areas targeted are in the North of England (Blackpool, Oldham, Bradford, Doncaster, and the North Yorkshire Coast) and in addition we have Opportunity North East. The Department is investing over £70 million to boost educational outcomes in the North, including through the Northern Powerhouse Schools Strategy.

Widening access and participation in higher education (HE) is a priority. Everyone with the ability to succeed in HE should have the opportunity to participate, regardless of their background or where they grew up.

The Department has made real progress in ensuring universities are open to all. However, we are aware that more needs to be done to ensure that background isn’t a barrier to realising potential in HE.

In our latest guidance to the Office for Students on access and participation, we asked them to secure greater, faster progress, particularly at the most selective institutions, through Access and Participation Plans. Through these plans, universities set out what activities they intend to take to ensure students from disadvantaged backgrounds or under-represented groups can access, participate, succeed and progress from HE.

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