The Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, branded the figures ‘shameful’ and suggested Government reforms might be to blame
Almost one in five young people in England is leaving the education system without basic qualifications.
A new analysis from the Children’s Commissioner for England found that 98,799 children — 18 per cent — left education aged 18 last year without achieving “level 2 attainment” — five GCSEs at A*-C or an equivalent technical qualification.
The Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, branded the figures “shameful” and suggested Government reforms might be to blame.
She has written to the Department for Education calling for an independent review.
Growing attainment gap
Young people are now required to stay in education or training until age 18, by which time it is estimated that many will have had more than £100,000 of public money spent on their education. But despite young people staying in education longer, the number leaving without reaching level 2 has increased by 28 per cent in three years, after falling continuously between 2005 and 2015.
According to the analysis, the increase has been driven by more pupils from poorer backgrounds failing to achieve basic qualifications.
The attainment gap between children in wealthy areas and those in poor areas increased from 13 per cent in 2015 to 17 per cent in 2018.
And the gap between children with special educational needs (SEN) and their classmates has also increased, with 45 per cent of SEN students failing to achieve basic qualifications.
Ms Longfield said: “It is shameful that last year almost 100,000 children in England left education at 18 without proper qualifications.
“It is particularly unacceptable that children growing up in the poorest areas of the country and children with special educational needs are most likely to leave school without reaching basic levels of attainment.”
She added: “The Government must urgently investigate why the progress that has been made over recent years in closing the attainment gap has stalled and is now going backwards.”
A briefing note from her office says education reforms by the Government appear to have hit poorer pupils and those with SEN.Read MoreHeadteachers call for GCSE English Language to be scrapped as a third of students fail English
It explains that reforms which were supposed to raise the standing of technical qualifications actually put schools off providing non-GCSE courses which used to be a route to level two, leading to “two unintended consequences”.
“Firstly, they have particularly penalised disadvantaged children and those with special educational needs,” it says.
“Secondly, they have closed off access to further study routes including vocational education and apprenticeships for an increasing number of children.”
The Department for Education was contacted for comment.