How can schools start to close the disadvantage gap? | Eexec – Ed Exec | Team Cansler

According to this summer’s GCSE results, the gap between disadvantaged students and their peers is the widest in a decade and widening

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is still being felt by disadvantaged students, who have little or no access to technology or devices to support online learning, and often spend less time using it compared to their peers with easier access to technology spend learning.

Recent increases in energy bills and food shortages are also having a profound impact on students. Families facing increasing cost of living pressures are not necessarily entitled to free school meals; only 1.9 million children are eligible, according to the government, which is just 22.5% of students. Yet 40% of households in the UK taking out universal credit are earning more than the maximum income for free school meals, meaning large numbers of children are going hungry – and this is affecting their grades as hunger makes it difficult know how to concentrate lessons.

So how can SBLs help close the growing disadvantage gap?


Prioritizing accessibility in your school can have a major impact on student performance. Ensuring that all relevant learning resources and classroom discussions are equally available will help students avoid falling behind in their studies through lack of access.


The use of technology in your school can also improve student learning and close the disadvantage gap. The “gamification” of educational software allows students to learn while playing games based on the curriculum theme. These programs provide student data to show the areas where individual students are struggling and help teachers provide specific support for each student’s needs.

Technology is also helping students learn on the go, as we’ve seen in the pandemic when students have had to adjust to learning online from home. For disadvantaged students, however, this could widen the gap between them and their peers as they may have little to no access to technology to support this online learning. SBLs play an important role in finding the means to restore this balance.


According to the Department of Education, children from disadvantaged backgrounds are far more likely to be absent permanently; A report released by the Education Data Lab identified a significant association between absenteeism from school and student performance at Key Stage 2. In the report, every percentage point increase in absenteeism from school is a drop of about 0.34 scaled points in reading and math connected, indicating a clear association between attendance and performance.

By working with students and parents to encourage participation, you can work to maximize opportunities for all of your students. There are several ways to do this, including:

  • Track all absences and tardiness to identify reasons and obstacles students face in attending school.
  • Contacting parents and carers in case of absences.
  • Weekly attendance review to share data, identify issues and take early action.


A report from the Education Policy Institute states that positive school staff mindsets that foster growth can help close the disadvantage gap and result in significant benefits for students, including an extra two-thirds of a GCSE grade – increasing their lifetime earnings is improved by over £6,000. It’s important to remember that positivity doesn’t stop at the school gates; it must also continue at home.

Disadvantaged students often spend less time with their parents and as a result may receive less study support. To support these students, schools can work with parents and local communities to share tips and resources to help students learn at home, and SBLs can be key to facilitating this.

As the deprivation gap continues to widen in the UK and the government refuses to extend school meal entitlements, SBLs are having to reach out to their communities to close them. Staff and communities can play a pivotal role by providing accessible learning resources and technology to support student learning and build a positive mindset for growth.

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