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County council hopes to close attainment gap in Bucks
STEPS are being taken to close the gap between the success of pupils from wealthier backgrounds and those from less affluent families.
There is currently a large gap in Bucks which is bigger than most authorities in the UK.
The county council is now working towards closing that gap and on Monday a report was presented to cabinet by Val Letheren, chairman of the council’s cross-party Education, Skills and Children’s Services Select Committee.
Cllr Letheren said: "In Bucks we do have a larger gap than most authorities and we explored why this is.
"We found, of course we knew, Bucks is a county of contrasts. We have high aspiring affluent areas but also severe areas of deprivation.
"A child of five starting in school from any of theses areas can have a very different background from one to the other, which can lead to a very different prospect of achievement."
A pupil premium is a grant given to schools from Government so they can support their disadvantaged pupils.
For the financial year 2014/15 this has risen to £1,300 for primary aged pupils, £935 for secondary and £1,900 for all looked after and adopted children and children with guardians.
The cabinet embraced seven of the committee’s 12 recommendations to help narrow the gap and raise attainment levels, and it is considering further work on the other five.
These include work on harnessing the approach by Learning Development Centres to offer learning opportunities for economically disadvantaged families; looking at further improving literacy; reviewing support for parents in supporting their vulnerable children; and strengthening the commitment to ensure economically disadvantaged pupils perform well in all school settings.
And Cllr Letheren said the new 11+ test appears to have also let in a wider range of children.
She said: "There is support out there now for the new test. It sounds like, I know it's not published yet, there are more children from schools where children who haven't been to grammar schools are now going."
Central to the proposals were using evidence-based practice through robust early years education, and ensuring pupil premium grants were being used to the best effect with individual pupils, such as giving one-to-one coaching and encouraging them to make the best use of their opportunities.
Mike Appleyard, deputy leader and cabinet member for education and skills, said: "I’m very keen that all children are given every opportunity to prepare for life confidently and to achieve their full potential.
"We’re already doing a great deal of very good work and the committee’s report focuses our attention on areas where we can make the transition from 'very good' to 'better'.’
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