Northern Ireland

Disadvantaged clever pupils less likely to get top GCSE grades

The gap between rich and poor in schools is well-documented
The gap between rich and poor in schools is well-documented

ALMOST half of clever, poor students fail to score top grades in their GCSEs, a study has found.

Bright pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to be among the top performers in primary school.

Those that are, are likely to fall behind richer classmates by the time they take their GCSEs, according to the Sutton Trust.

The findings show that action is needed to address this "wasted talent".

The study looked at results at the end of primary school and at GCSE of high-achieving disadvantaged pupils in England and their wealthier peers.

It found that poorer students were three times less likely to be in the top 10 per cent in English and maths at the end of primary school - with just 4 per cent of disadvantaged 11-year-olds considered to be high attainers at this age, compared with 13 per cent of non-disadvantaged children.

At GCSE, just 52 per cent of poor, bright children achieved at least five A*-A grades, compared with 72 per cent of their richer, equally clever, classmates.

The gap between rich and poor is well-documented.

Separate figures published by the Department of Education show that in Northern Ireland last year, 70.3 per cent of year 12 pupils achieved five or more `good' GCSEs at grades A*-C including English and maths.

Slightly less than half (49.5 per cent) of pupils entitled to free school meals achieved this mark. Free school meal entitlement is the simplest and most common measure of social disadvantage in schools.

The Sutton Trust research, meanwhile, also showed that white, poor, bright students had the lowest levels of achievement at GCSE, compared with other ethnic groups.

Trust founder Sir Peter Lampl said it was worrying to see that disadvantaged pupils with the potential for high achievement were falling behind.

"We need better evidence of how to improve the attainment of disadvantaged highly able students. Schools should be monitored and incentivised to do this," he said.