New research shows that deprived children do better in poor boroughs than in richer ones

A new think-thank, The Centre For London, published some interesting research today which shows that poorer students do less well at getting into university if they go to school in a richer borough. The research also finds that, in some poorer boroughs, students from the poorest neighborhoods actually do better than their wealthier peers at getting into university. The report illustrates how successful many inner-city schools have been at raising achievement while schools in richer boroughs have, relatively speaking, lagged behind. It ties in with some of my observations that students from poorer backgrounds can sometimes, though not always, suffer if they are in a “rich” school. It actually makes me think that we need to look more closely at the attainment gap in some of our most successful schools. The report also dispels the myth that inner-city schools are “failing” our children; in fact, the reverse is the case. This government has found it politically expedient to knock inner-city schools consistently as being havens of chaos and mayhem when, as the report shows, in fact they are doing very well.

The report finds:

· The poverty penalty is higher in richer boroughs such as Richmond, Barnet and Sutton, whereas in the poorer boroughs including Newham, Tower Hamlets and Hackney the poverty penalty is virtually non-existent

· The poverty penalty is much more significant in parts of outer London: In Sutton, being from a deprived area means a young person’s chances of going to a top-tier university are reduced by almost 25 per cent. Likewise, the penalty in Barnet is around 20 per cent


· Young people from deprived backgrounds perform better when they attend a school in deprived areas: Newham, Hackney and Tower Hamlets have particularly high proportions of deprived areas, but young people don’t seem to suffer the same poverty penalty as other boroughs such as Merton and Bromley, which have low proportions of deprived areas

· In the boroughs of Westminster and Islington students on Free School Meals outperformed their peers in getting into university.

· In the boroughs of Tower Hamlets – one of the poorest boroughs in London – those from deprived areas outperform the average application success rate, including access to top the top-tier universities

Top-tier Universities
While the report’s findings show some London schools have a track record of getting poorer kids to universities others are doing less well. Significant gaps remain across the city. This is particularly true when getting children to top-tier universities.

· Young people applying for university from the poorest parts of London are around half as likely to go to a top-tier university as other young Londoners: 12.5 per cent of applicants to top-tier universities were successful compared to 22.5 per cent of applicants across London as a whole

· In Richmond, the London borough with virtually no deprived areas, 42% of those applying to top-tier universities get accepted, whereas in Barking and Dagenham, one of London’s poorest areas, only 12% do

Poverty penalty not inevitable
The report shows that a poverty penalty is not inevitable: London already has achieved significant results in widening access. Building on this experience will be crucial for the city further to improve its record on access.

Exam results in London have risen faster than across England over the last decade and London has a higher proportion of Local Authority schools judged by Ofsted to be excellent than the rest of England (30% versus 17%).
London’s economic future depends on ensuring we have the talent needed for the city to compete in today’s global knowledge economy.  Opening up access to higher education will ensure London retains its competitive edge.

London’s success depends on ensuring that all young people are able to access the opportunities that higher education brings.

Rob Whitehead author of the report said:
This report poses a challenge to the widespread assumption that the most disadvantaged always benefit from being educated amongst the middle class.  Our findings show that the high ‘poverty penalty’ borne by the most disadvantaged in terms of getting in to higher education is heavier in richer areas.  Remarkably, it has been removed altogether in some areas, mainly in inner London, thanks to the efforts of pupils, parents and teachers.  In a significant minority of London’s schools poverty does not reduce young people’s chances of an excellent university education. We can, and must, learn lessons from these schools to ensure that young Londoners of all backgrounds can fulfill their potential.

Stephen Evans author of the report said:

Despite tough economic times, university remains for many the ticket to a world of opportunities. By 2020, one in two jobs in London will need high-level skills. It’s crucial that we learn from the best and do all we can to continue to break down barriers to opportunity. Our findings are both a celebration of a London success story and a clarion call to do more and go further.


Published by: @wonderfrancis

Francis Gilbert is a Lecturer in Education at Goldsmiths, University of London, teaching on the PGCE Secondary English programme. He also teaches the Creative Writing module on the MA in Children’s Literature, which is run by Maggie Pitfield and Professor Michael Rosen. Previously, he worked for a quarter of a century in various English state schools teaching English and Media Studies to 11-18 year olds. He has, at times, moonlighted as a journalist, novelist and social commentator. He is the author of ‘Teacher On The Run’, ‘Yob Nation’, ‘Parent Power’, ‘Working The System -- How To Get The Very Best State Education for Your Child’, and a novel about school, ‘The Last Day Of Term’. His first book, ‘I'm A Teacher, Get Me Out Of Here’ was a big hit, becoming a bestseller and being serialised on Radio 4. In his role as an English teacher, he has taught many classic texts over the years and has developed a great many resources to assist readers with understanding, appreciating and responding to them both analytically and creatively. This led him to set up his own small publishing company FGI Publishing ( which has published his study guides as well as a number of books by other authors, including Roger Titcombe’s ‘Learning Matters’ and anthology of creative writing 'The Gold Room'. He is the co-founder, with Melissa Benn and Fiona Millar, of The Local Schools Network,, a blog that celebrates non-selective state schools, and has his own website, He has appeared numerous times on radio and TV, including Newsnight, the Today Programme, Woman’s Hour and the Russell Brand Show. In June 2015, he was awarded a PhD in Creative Writing and Education by Goldsmiths.

Categories Attainment gapTags, , , Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s