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Study highlights growing gap in children’s life chances


The gap between young people from families with high and low socio-economic status (SES) is widening in areas vital to child development and attainment at school, according to a new report. 

The Social Mobility Commission study, undertaken by Oxford University, found that the gap in the number of high SES and low SES fathers reading regularly to children grew from 15 percentage points in 1965 to 26 percentage points in 2006.

According to the report:

  • Very young children with high SES parents receive on average 40 minutes a day more parental engagement in developmental activities, such as playing and reading, than those with low SES parents. This equates to 240 hours a year, a gap that’s widened since the 1970s
  • Children aged 11 from the lowest SES groups are three-and-a-half times more likely to display the worst behaviour problems compared to the highest SES groups. This has risen from twice as likely in 1969
  • Children from all backgrounds in 1969 had more or less equal risk of hyperactivity – by 2012 low SES children were twice as likely as high SES children to score in the highest 10% most hyperactive
  • Almost 35% of low SES children in 2012 played sport less than once a week compared to 13% of high SES children
  • More than 80% of high SES children go to art galleries, compared to 51% of low SES children

The study also revealed improvements. Levels of truancy fell from 15% of pupils in 1999 to 2000 to 10% in 2013 to 2014, with the socio-economic gap narrowing from 11 percentage points to 5 percentage points over this period.

In addition there has been an increase during the same period ­in attendance at parents’ evenings at schools – from 90% to 95% – with a narrowing in the social class gap – from 20 percentage points in 2004 to 12 percentage points in 2013.

Kath Grant, ASDAN Director of Education, said: “This latest report from Alan Milburn’s group echoes what most classroom teachers know. I always found the Bronze Personal Development Programmes and the Certificate of Personal Effectiveness (CoPE) qualification to be brilliant at raising achievement with disadvantaged children – it gives them a curriculum rich in cultural activities and teaching methods that include quality time with trusted adults.”