10 April 2009

See the addendum at the foot of the post for further information

Data for educational achievement in Cornwall show, I think, the adverse effects of poverty.

A paper (DEP2009-0918) of 19 March 2009 in the parliamentary library gives the numbers and percentages of (a) all pupils and of (b) only pupils eligible for free school meals in Cornwall (and all 152 local authorities in England) who did not gain any GCSEs above grade D for each year from 2003 to 2008.

Here are the percentages for 2008 for Cornwall:
All pupils 19.8 percent
Pupils eligible for free school meals 39.9 percent.

For all Cornwall pupils there is a modest improvement over the years since 2003; for free-school-meals Cornwall pupils the improvements are more marked.

Of course these GCSE results are general figures and there are admirable exceptions to them. However, free school meals are seen by many as a proxy measurement for poverty. The data revealed in the library paper is an issue that should exercise all those concerned about young people in Cornwall, including local and parliamentary politicians and educationists. It isn’t new; it has been known – or at least the knowledge about it has been available – for a long time. Why is the gap still so scandalously large? What can we do, economically, socially, and educationally, to narrow it further? How can we, indeed, reduce the general proportion achieving so little? As far as I can see not a single party in Cornwall is engaged with this though it is an important issue about the lives, schooling, and futures of teenagers in Cornwall; it is about their their achievement and self-esteem and sense of themselves. This issue is part of the real, everyday pro-Cornish agenda; recognising the needs of people in Cornwall and trying to help them to meet those needs.

The parliamentary library and the document DEP2009-0918 are here.

Addendum [Addenda of 16 and 30 October 2009 edited and merged 14 October 2011]

There are further figures about the relationship between free school meals and achievement in school in England in Hansard 15 May 2009 column 1027W, 5 October 2009 column 2304W, 13 October 2009 column 860W, and 29 October 2009 column 593W for example.