Closing the attainment gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils has been the focus of our education reforms since 2010. The attainment gap narrowed by 9% at secondary school level and by 13% at primary school level between 2011 and 2019.
For over a decade, the Department has consistently taken a range of steps to give priority support and deliver programmes that help disadvantaged pupils, including improving the quality of teaching and curriculum resources, strengthening the school system, and providing targeted support where needed. The Department knows that disadvantaged children have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, which has widened the gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils. The Department will continue to work to reduce this gap, as it previously has.
At a national level, the Department delivers several core policies to support disadvantaged pupils. This includes free school meals, which support around 2 million children, as well as the Holiday Activities and Food programme (HAF), which is receiving £200 million in funding a year for the next two years, The Department also supports 2,700 breakfast clubs and family hubs.
The National Funding Formula (NFF) continues to distribute funding fairly based on schools’ and pupils’ needs and characteristics. In 2023/24, the Department has targeted a greater proportion of schools NFF funding towards deprived pupils than ever before. Over £4 billion (9.8%) of the formula has been allocated according to deprivation, while over £7 billion (17.4%), has been allocated to additional needs overall. As a result, schools with the highest levels of deprivation, on average, attract the largest per pupil funding increases. On top of this core funding, Pupil Premium funding rates have increased by 5% in the 2023/24 financial year to a total of almost £2.9 billion. This increase in funding is on top of £1 billion of recovery premium funding in the 2022/23 and 2023/24 academic years, which was allocated to deliver evidence based approaches to support educational recovery for disadvantaged pupils, and over £300 million delivered in 2021/22.
The National Tutoring Programme (NTP) funds schools based on rates of disadvantage. Since the launch of the NTP in November 2020, more than £1 billion has been made available to support tutoring. From November 2020 to the 2023/24 academic year, nearly 4 million tutoring courses have been started (up to July 2023).
At a regional level, the Department has identified 55 Education Investment Areas (EIAs) with the lowest attainment outcomes. In these areas, the Department is providing £86 million for Trust Capacity funding, up to £150 million for Connect the Classroom, and extra funding for Levelling Up Premium retention payments to support schools with two or more Requires Improvement inspection reports.
24 EIAs have been identified as Priority EIAs. These areas face low attainment at Key Stage 2 and high levels of disadvantage. They therefore receive additional funding, including £42 million of Local Needs Funding, £86 million for Connect the Classroom and over £2 million for attendance mentoring pilots.