Bishop of Exeter asks about education in the South West

The Bishop of Exeter received the following written answer on 6th June 2022:

The Lord Bishop of Exeter asked Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the finding in the report by the University of Exeter Social Mobility in the South West, published on 28 April, that “the South-West has the worst educational outcomes for disadvantaged young people in the country, and low social mobility compared with other areas”; and what steps they are taking to address these problems.

Baroness Barran (Con): The department recognises that this is a very significant issue for the South West. The report acknowledges the work we are doing in the region, and we are committed to supporting this further.

The attached ‘Table N5’ [linked below] of the latest published key stage 2 outcomes for 2019 provides the data on the disadvantage gap and shows that the gap has been narrowing up until the latest year where it saw a slight upturn.

A similar trend is seen at key stage 4 where the gap was generally narrowing until the latest 2020/21 data point. More information on key stage 4 is available here: in a new tab).

The department also has a South West disadvantage strategy and plan, with numerous strands. The strands include:

  • Working with sector networks and trust leaders to promote and improve outcomes for disadvantaged pupils
  • Working with department policy colleagues to promote and support key developments in the region. For example, the national tutoring programme
  • Working with and learning from sector experts. For example, the Education Endowment Foundation on what works, basing our strategies on the latest evidence
  • Including disadvantage outcomes and gaps as part of our induction of the new regional advisory board members

As outlined in the Schools White Paper, we want to build capacity in the parts of the country that need this most. This is why we have identified 55 Education Investment Areas, which include the third of local authorities where attainment is lowest and where we will offer substantial additional support to drive school improvement. Our Education Investment Areas include a number of areas in the South West.

In these areas we will be supporting schools not making necessary improvements by moving them into strong trusts, subject to our ongoing consultation. We will also be investing in trust capacity, extending the Connect the Classroom programme to improve schools’ digital connectivity and offering the Levelling Up premium to eligible teachers in disadvantaged schools.

We will also make more intensive investment in a subset of Priority Education Investment Areas, where underperformance is particularly entrenched. These areas include our existing Opportunity Areas, including West Somerset. These areas will benefit from a share of around £40 million to address specific local needs, as well as advanced access to other department programmes.


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