Just Sociology

Breaking Down the Education Attainment Gap: Factors Measures and Policy Suggestions

In recent years, the education attainment gap among 16-19 year old students has become a growing concern. This gap refers to the difference in academic achievement between students from disadvantaged backgrounds and their more affluent peers.

A range of different factors has been identified as contributing to this gap, including free school meal eligibility, prior attainment at GCSE, different qualifications (A-levels vs BTECs), institutional clustering, and unobserved characteristics such as health or motivation. To better understand the education attainment gap among 16-19 year old students, this article will delve into the key factors that contribute to the gap, the measures and analysis used to assess the gap, statistics on disadvantaged students, and policy suggestions for addressing the issue.

Factors that Contribute to the Attainment Gap

There are a number of different factors that have been identified as contributing to the education attainment gap among 16-19 year old students. One of the main factors is free school meal eligibility, which is often used as a proxy for socio-economic disadvantage.

Students eligible for free school meals are more likely to struggle academically than their more affluent peers, due to a range of factors such as poorer health, less supportive home environments, and lower aspirations. Another factor that can contribute to the education attainment gap is prior attainment at GCSE.

Students who achieve lower grades at GCSE are more likely to struggle academically at a later stage, particularly if they are not able to access the same level of academic support as their more successful peers. Different qualifications can also have an impact on the education attainment gap.

Students who choose to study BTECs, for example, are more likely to come from disadvantaged backgrounds and may be at a disadvantage in comparison to their peers studying A-levels. Institutional clustering can also be a factor, with disadvantaged students often being clustered together in the same schools or colleges.

Unobserved characteristics such as health or motivation can also contribute to the education attainment gap, as these can affect a students ability to engage in academic work and achieve at the same level as their peers.

Measures and Analysis Used to Assess the Attainment Gap

There are a range of different measures and analysis techniques used to assess the education attainment gap among 16-19 year old students. One common measure is free school meal status, which is used to identify socio-economically disadvantaged students.

Another common measure is persistent disadvantage, which looks at whether a student has been eligible for free school meals at any point in the past six years. This provides a more accurate picture of disadvantage, as it takes into account longer-term patterns of poverty.

The best three qualifications achieved is another measure that is commonly used to assess the education attainment gap. This measure takes into account the types of qualifications achieved by students and assigns weighting systems to different types of qualifications.

Regression analysis is a commonly-used statistical technique to analyze the attainment gap, which allows researchers to identify the key factors contributing to the gap. Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition is another technique that can be used to identify the factors contributing to the education attainment gap.

This technique is particularly useful in identifying the factors that are due to discrimination.

Statistics on Disadvantaged Students

Statistics provide a useful tool for understanding the scale of the education attainment gap among disadvantaged students. Sample size is an important consideration when interpreting statistics, as small sample sizes can lead to inaccurate or unreliable results.

In the UK, around 30% of 16-19 year old students are eligible for free school meals, which can be used as a proxy for socio-economic disadvantage. In terms of A-level and BTEC grades, there is a notable achievement gap between disadvantaged and more affluent students, with around a 13 point difference in mean point scores.

It is important to note that there are also ethnic differences in educational attainment, with Asian and Black Caribbean students being particularly disadvantaged in comparison to their white British peers.

Policy Suggestions for Supporting Disadvantaged Students

There are a number of policy suggestions that can be implemented to support disadvantaged students and help address the education attainment gap. Extending pupil premium funding, which is used to support disadvantaged students, is one potential policy suggestion.

Providing extra support for disadvantaged students, particularly in terms of academic tutoring and pastoral care, can also be beneficial. Another policy suggestion is to focus on improving college enrollment rates among disadvantaged students.

This can help to ensure that these students have access to higher education opportunities and are able to develop the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the future. It is important to note that the effects of different policy suggestions can vary depending on a range of different factors, such as the local context, the particular population being targeted, and the resources available.

Strengths and Limitations of the Study

There are both strengths and limitations to the current understanding of the education attainment gap among 16-19 year old students. One strength is the use of innovative measures and analysis techniques to identify the key factors contributing to the gap.

However, there is also a research gap in terms of the relative lack of research on the experiences of disadvantaged students themselves. This can limit the understanding of the factors that are most important to these students and can make it more difficult to design effective policies and interventions.

Sampling methods can also be a limitation, particularly if sample sizes are small or if sampling methods are not representative of the wider population. Similarly, data time scale can also be a limiting factor, particularly if data is not available over a sufficiently long period to identify longer-term patterns and trends.

It is also worth noting that the use of mean and median scores can sometimes present different interpretations of the attainment gap.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the education attainment gap among 16-19 year old students remains a pressing issue that requires further research and policy attention. A range of complex factors contribute to the gap, including free school meal eligibility, prior attainment at GCSE, different qualifications, institutional clustering, and unobserved characteristics such as health or motivation.

A range of measures and analysis techniques can be used to assess the gap, including free school meal status, persistent disadvantage, and regression analysis. Policy suggestions for addressing the issue include extending pupil premium funding, providing extra support for disadvantaged students, and focusing on improving college enrollment rates.

While there are both strengths and limitations to the current understanding of the attainment gap, continued research and policy attention will be crucial to ensuring that all students, regardless of their background, have the opportunity to succeed in their education. In conclusion, the education attainment gap among 16-19 year old students is a complex issue that can be caused by a range of factors, including socio-economic background, prior academic achievement, and educational qualifications.

Policy suggestions to address the gap include funding and extra support for disadvantaged students. Though the issue is complicated, continued research and planning can help in closing the gap between education attainment for all students, allowing everyone, regardless of background or circumstances, the opportunity to succeed.

FAQs:

1. What is the education attainment gap?

The education attainment gap refers to differences in academic achievement between disadvantaged students and their more affluent peers. 2.

What factors contribute to the education attainment gap? Factors that can contribute to the attainment gap include socio-economic background, prior academic achievement, and educational qualifications.

3. How is the education attainment gap measured?

Measures used to evaluate education attainment gap usually include free school meal eligibility, persistent disadvantage, and the best three qualifications achieved. 4.

What policy suggestions have been made to address the education attainment gap? Policy suggestions to address the education attainment gap include extending pupil premium funding, providing extra support for disadvantaged students, and focusing on improving college enrollment rates.

5. What is the significance of addressing the education attainment gap?

Addressing the education attainment gap is essential as it would ensure that all students, regardless of their background, have the opportunity to succeed in their education.

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