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Free School Meals

Department for Education written question – answered on 5th February 2020.

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Photo of David Evennett David Evennett Conservative, Bexleyheath and Crayford

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to improve the attainment of white British boys who are in receipt of free school meals.

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

Educational achievement is at the heart of this Government’s commitment to ensure no young person is left behind because of the place or circumstances of their birth. Due to our reforms, 86% of schools are now Good or Outstanding compared with 66% in 2010.

The Department recognises that young people from disadvantaged backgrounds – including those currently or formerly claiming free school meals and currently or formerly looked after - may face extra challenges in achieving their potential at school. We introduced the pupil premium in 2011 and have invested over £15 billion – and another £2.4 billion this year – so that schools have the resources to provide extra support for disadvantaged pupils of all abilities. Our data shows that 95% of the pupils attracting the pupil premium do so on the basis of free school meal claims. White disadvantaged male pupils constitute the largest pupil group of eligible pupils and so benefit significantly from this extra support.

Against a background of rising standards, disadvantaged pupils are catching up with their peers. The attainment gap index shows that since 2011, the gap at the end of primary school has narrowed by 13% and the gap at the end of secondary school has narrowed by 9%. This indicates better prospects for a secure adult life for disadvantaged pupils. Our reforms, and the focus provided by the pupil premium, have supported this improvement.

The Department’s establishment of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) with a £137 million grant has ensured schools have access to high-quality, evidence-based effective practice drawn from hundreds of trials across England. We recommend schools consult the EEF’s resources, particularly its recent ‘Pupil Premium Guide’, when they are considering how best to support their pupils claiming free school meals to close the attainment gap.

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