‘Closing the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers is the greatest challenge facing English schools. The gap is stubborn because its causes are entrenched and complex, and most lie beyond the control of schools and educators. However, it is clear that schools can make a difference.1
Havering and Redbridge have 18 secondary schools each. Redbridge’s disadvantaged students do markedly better than those in Havering (see Addendum).
Schools receive additional funding through the Pupil Premium (PP) to try to alleviate the challenges disadvantaged students face. PP funding is a flat rate for eligible students.
Marshalls Park, Havering, PP £232,245
The most recent examination results were published in 2019. The academy said their students achieved “…amazing results, some of the best the school has ever had.” Their disadvantaged students achieved a catastrophic success rate of 18% at GCSE grade 5+ English and Mathematics.
Chadwell Heath, Redbridge, PP £241,230
They said, “This year  our pupils have produced our best ever set of examination results.” Their disadvantaged students achieved 44% grade 5+ English and Mathematics. Chadwell Heath really has ‘Levelled-up’ giving their students a platform for ‘A’ levels post-16.
The introductory quote neatly summarises the challenges presented by disadvantaged students. Marshalls Park focuses on, “The [attainment] gap is stubborn because its causes are entrenched and complex, and most lie beyond the control of schools and educators.” In brief, school leaders work on the theory that the attainment gap is intractable, whereas Chadwell Heath has taken heart from, “However, it is clear that schools can make a difference,” and plan accordingly.
These two sentences sum up senior management responses. Schools which undervalue disadvantaged students hamper their achievement. This is revealed in the GCSE results for the two schools. Disadvantaged students are challenging but PP funding aids skillful management offering an empathetic response. It’s clear that schools that meet the challenge are rewarded with higher achievement for every student.4
2 Exam Results | Marshalls Park Academy Marshalls Park Academy for government statistics see- GOV.UK – Find and compare schools in England (compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk) For a general look at the way that Havering schools are mediocre see Havering’s Academy Schools: Councillor Robert Benham’s Dilemma – Politics in Havering
4 Chadwell Heath’s students at grade 5+ English and Mathematics achieved 61%: Marshalls Park 46%.