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State of Children’s Rights in England 2016: Education, Leisure & Cultural Activities

Standard Attainment Tests (SATs) at Key Stages 1 and 2 (for children aged six and seven, and 10 and 11, respectively), and proposals to remove the ban on grammar schools and invest in their expansion. Despite the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, setting out her vision for a ‘truly meritocratic Britain… [with] a good school place for every child’, the proposals have been met with widespread concern that more grammar schools will mean the standard of education for the majority of children will diminish and social mobility for children from disadvantaged backgrounds will not increase.

While educational attainment has generally improved, significant attainment gaps persist and have widened between certain groups of children. Inequalities in education, including in school exclusion rates and in the numbers of disabled children attending mainstream schools, continue to present a considerable challenge to ensuring all children have their right to education realised.

More children are now taught in good or outstanding schools: 1.4 million more pupils than in 2010.The Government has confirmed that it has dropped its plans to compel underperforming schools to become academies. This followed concerns that there was insufficient evidence to show that sponsored academy status raises the standard of education in a school. Local authorities are often the strongest advocate of more disadvantaged groups and evidence indicates that council maintained schools perform more highly in Ofsted inspections.  Positively, the Government also continues to give schools additional funding to support children from disadvantaged backgrounds through the Pupil Premium.

The general decrease in levels of bullying is welcome as is the Government commitment to carry out an assessment of the level of anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, homophobic, racist and other bullying in schools to inform action to reduce it.

The Government announcement of an advisory group to look at how the quality of Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE) can be improved alongside a toolkit for schools is also a positive development.