There is a Gap in every country in the developed world. It is called the achievement gap, and it is the difference in educational outcomes for children which are dependent upon whether they were born into a poor or a rich family. As many as 1 in 4 children in the UK are born into poverty according to the DWP (2009). Currently, the UK has one of the largest gaps of any country in the world.
The government has been aware of this gap for the last couple of decades and invested billions of pounds into our education system and especially improving our urban schools. As a result, the Gap has closed, but despite all of that investment, it has only narrowed by 1%. Schools have, on the whole improved, but the Gap has not closed. It is reckoned that it will not close significantly for another 30-50 years.
What we are talking about in our Country today is the loss of potential and opportunity for 3 generations of school children. Potential that we can scarce afford to waste. If we begin to think about what that will mean for our local communities. We can all remember the scenes of the riots of 2011 and the anger and other emotions that spilled over from a portion of society that felt the bite of injustice and disenfranchisement, going out to take by force what they could not otherwise have.
This is not just an urban problem either. Wokingham and West Berkshire Authorities, right on our doorsteps, have two of the widest gaps of any local authorities on the league tables for educational attainment for disadvantaged pupils. That means that if you are a child on free school meals in Berkshire, educationally speaking you are at more disadvantage than most other children in the developed world.
I believe that we need a solution to this problem, not just for Berkshire children, but for every child, young person and family in the UK, and we need the solution now.
A recent study by Save the Children concluded that schools can only effect up to 20% of the factors that cause the gap. 80% are factors outside of the schools ability to effect. For example; the parenting of that child, the support they receive with their education and factors around health and nutrition etc.
There are 4 main groups of people who are at high risk of falling through this gap:
- Poor communities where there is generational worklessness, particularly NEETS.
- Young offenders and those who behave in criminal and anti-social ways.
- Young people excluded from education or those at risk.
- Young people trapped by addiction and/or gang culture.
GAP Education is working to improve the life-chances of disadvantaged children and families in the UK by unlocking potential to close the achievement gap and bring about a more just, cohesive and empowered society. To date we have worked with 28 schools to train 90 advocates who over the last 18 months have worked with 99 families creating around £5.6m of long-term savings through positively impacting 9 out of 10 children in our unique 12 week A+ Family Advocacy programme.
A+ Family Advocacy will close the achievement gap for children in the UK by:
- Raising self-esteem and bringing hope to children & families
- Brokering positive local partnerships with 3rd sector groups & volunteers
- Holistic solutions; recognising that complex problems require a number of effective strategies.
- Being there for the long-haul; understanding that there is no quick fix to bring about lasting change.