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Education in England: Annual report 2018

Authors: Jo Hutchinson, David Robinson, Daniel Carr, Whitney Crenna-Jennings, Emily Hunt and Avinash Akhal

The Education Policy Institute is an independent, impartial and evidence-based research institute which aims to promote high quality education outcomes for all, through analysis that both informs and influences the policy debate in England and internationally.

Our 2018 Annual Report assesses recent progress in raising attainment throughout the phases of education in England. It also looks to carefully assess recent trends in the attainment gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children. If the debate about improving English education is to be productive, then it needs to be based on an objective assessment of the country’s strengths and weaknesses – shifts in the qualifications regime and in accountability measures can make this objective assessment more difficult to complete than might be expected.

EPI is particularly committed to research which will improve outcomes for our most disadvantaged children and our most vulnerable students – this long tail of “under-achievement” currently holds back our overall education performance and impairs social mobility. It is important to understand how the disadvantaged gaps vary over time, vary geographically, and differ between groups of disadvantaged students.

It is also crucial to understand what the trends are in closing the disadvantaged gap – an objective shared by almost all policymakers and education commentators. Over recent years, and contrary to the perceptions of some, there has been a closing of the gap on most measures. This closure has taken place over a period of 20 years during which education and social policy has had a strong focus on improving opportunities and reducing the inequalities in social outcomes. A concern from this year’s report is the apparent significant slowdown in the rate of gap closure, against a background of rising child poverty and financial pressures on many of the services which vulnerable children access. It is important that policymakers continue to prioritise measures to close gaps – without this, we may see a return to an era of stagnating or even worsening social mobility.