Report tackles low academic standards of Bucks’ poorest children

Committee chairman Val Letheren
Committee chairman Val Letheren

A watchdog has recommended setting up ‘learning development centres’ in deprived estates to boost the educational achievement of Bucks’ poorest chilldren.

The GCSE results of children who qualify for free school meals because their parents are on benefits are well below the national average – and are in stark contrast with the grades achieved by other pupils which are among the best in the country.

To address the gap, a cross-party group of county councillors held an inquiry in which it called a number of expert witnesses, including teachers, Ofsted inspectors and politicians.

The use of the Pupil Premium grant, additional targeted funding provided to schools which is intended to help the most disadvantaged children, was a key focus of the inquiry.

The committee has now made 12 recommendations to Bucks County Council, including looking into the feasibility of establishing ‘learning development centres to offer targeted learning opportunities for parents and children’.

It says ‘these centres should be located in areas accessible to economically disadvantaged families’.

Recommendations also include:

> Targeted additional funding for the poorest children at a young age to bbost Early Years achievement.

> Primary schools to provide targeted learning support to help high achieving pupils from deprived backgrounds access grammar schools.

> Each school to have a governor with special responsibility for narrowing achievement gap, and for data on the topic to be presented at governor meetings.

Other recommendations include focused teacher training, a review of phonics teaching, and examining the role of children’s centres.

Val Letheren, committee chairman, said: “This has been a very wide-ranging and in-depth inquiry during which we have witnessed some very good practices already being carried out in Buckinghamshire schools.

“Central themes in our report proposals are widening and strengthening this existing good practice through robust early years education and ensuring that Pupil Premium grants are being used to the best effect and focused on the pupils who need help most to improve their academic achievements.”


The report in full