Large education gap in Cambridgeshire’s schools between genders and for summer-born children revealed

The gap in educational performance between Cambridgeshire children born in summer and the rest of the year is “startling” and needs to be put back on the agenda, according to the county council’s service director for education.

Saturday, 25th January 2020, 5:00 am
Updated Saturday, 25th January 2020, 5:56 am

Cambridgeshire County Council’s children and young people committee was presented with the county’s educational outcomes on Tuesday and it was noted there is a “big gap” between those born in the summer compared with their classmates born in other seasons.

The gap in pupils achieving the “expected standard” at Key Stage 2 – aged seven to 11 – between summer born and autumn born children was 8.8 percentage points.

Of those born in the summer, 58.6 per cent hit the expected standard, whereas the county average is 62.8 per cent; excluding the summer born children the average is 64.2. Those born in autumn scored highest, with 67.4 per cent, then winter with 63.4 per cent, with 61.7 per cent of those born in the spring hitting the expected standard.

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A council report said “as expected, summer born children perform at a lower level than other seasons although the gap to autumn born (at 8.8 per cent) is too large. This statistic has been shared with headteachers to allow them to challenge outcomes for summer born children across their school”.

When the disparity was queried by councillors, the council’s service director for education, Jonathan Lewis, said: “I just thought it was startling. When I put the figures there I expected there to be a difference – but it was significant. There is no reason why summer born children can’t perform.”

He jokingly noted to the committee that he himself was a summer born child.

He described it as “stark” and a “big gap”.

“Looking at it it’s a concern and we have to pick it up. That gap should not be there,” he said.

The educational achievement gap for summer born children caused surprise for the committee, but is far from the only noticeable disparity in the figures. The gap between those meeting the expected standard between boys and girls at the same stage is larger – 9.3 percentage points.

But the gap between the most and least deprived pupils at Key Stage 2 is more than double those disparities, at 29.2 percentage points. The council report says that in Cambridgeshire “the outcomes for disadvantaged children are improving but continue to be an issue locally and nationally”.

It said: “The outcomes for disadvantaged pupils in Cambridgeshire improved in each individual subject whereas nationally disadvantaged outcomes fell by around one percentage point in each.”

Mr Lewis told the committee the county “has to continue that focus” on reducing the gap for disadvantage pupils.

The council report describes a number of measures to tackle the issue. And it says “letters of concern will be sent to 20 schools and 20 academies whose three year aggregated scores have been below 30 per cent of their disadvantaged pupils reaching aged related expectations”.

In Cambridgeshire, disadvantaged pupils are around eight per cent less likely to be in education or employment after leaving KS4, which covers ages 14 to 16.

Compared with the national average, Cambridgeshire is behind at Key Stage 2 but ahead at the time children leave school at the end of Key Stage 4.

The report says: “Key Stage 2 reading, writing and mathematics combined outcomes improved at a rate slightly greater than seen nationally, but Cambridgeshire outcomes are still around 2.5 per cent below national performance. Our national rank improved but the gap to both statistical and regional neighbour remains too high.”

For the older children, it said: “Key Stage 4 - Outcomes in the basic measures (strong pass in English and mathematics) and Progress 8 have provisionally improved significantly and are both above national. Both measures place Cambridgeshire in the top quartile for performance as well as in regional and statistical neighbour rankings, where we are also top quartile.”

Within Cambridgeshire, at Key Stage 2, “outcomes in South Cambridgeshire continue to be the highest across the county with Fenland continuing to be the most challenging”.

There are more boys than girls in every age group in Cambridgeshire.

Ben Hatton, Local Democracy Reporting Service