Government promises action to close attainment gap

Labour has failed to narrow the education gap between rich and
poor children, education secretary Ruth Kelly admitted last

Although more 11-year-olds in all social groups are achieving level
4 in English and Maths than they were in 1998, average scores for
individual pupils reveal that the education attainment gap between
those from affluent and deprived backgrounds has not changed.

To help narrow the gap, Kelly announced the extension of the
Bookstart scheme to every child under the age of five.

Every baby aged up to 12 months already receives a free bag of baby
books, but now all one- and two-year-olds will receive a satchel of
books and every three- and four-year-old will receive a box of
books and crayons.

The government also announced catch-up classes for children with
severe literacy problems in selected primary schools from

Under the Every Child A Reader project, developed by the Institute
of Education and a coalition of charities, special literacy
teachers will be placed in schools across 20 Local Education
Authorities. They will provide tailored tuition for 30 minutes
every day for three to four months to around 4,000 children with
the severest literacy problems.

Admitting that admission policies were another area to be tackled,
Kelly promised in a speech to the Institute for Public Policy
Research to look in the forthcoming schools white paper at why
children from more deprived backgrounds did not always get the
opportunity to access better schools.

She said councils had a bigger role to play here, “helping
expand capacity in the places where parents want it, as well as
moving much faster to sort out schools in trouble”.

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