Link between underachievement and poorer backgrounds revealed

Our report shows mainstream education is failing some poorer young people. But another approach can provide the answer.
5 May 2016

The link between underachievement in mainstream education and students from poor backgrounds has been exposed by Central YMCA’s latest report.

The World of Good report [PDF] gathered research on more than 1,600 16-25 year olds and quoted from several leading studies. It found that over a third of boys on free school meals – an indicator of a low-income household – who at aged 11 are in the top 10% of performers, have fallen outside the top 25% by the age of 16.

Highly able children from poorer families also achieve half a grade less on average than other pupils of equivalent ability. They are also less likely to take GCSEs in core subjects such as history, geography, triple sciences or a language.

Mainstream education simply isn’t right for everybody
Rosi Prescott

Rosi Prescott, Central YMCA CEO, said: “It’s a distressing, but it’s a true fact that today’s youngsters are facing the worst economic prospects for several generations.

"A high degree of harm is caused to those people who fail to succeed within the current education system – something which is much more likely to be an issue for those from lower income families – aggravating the impact of financial inequality on future employment opportunities.”

Rosi said that there is a need to find solutions for those young people who fail to thrive within the education system.

“Mainstream education simply isn’t right for everybody,” she explained. “Other types of educational support, vocational learning and apprenticeships can do a lot to alleviate these issues – helping ease the transition between childhood and adulthood.”

The report also revealed that the two biggest causes of harm to young people in Britain today are failing to thrive within the mainstream education system and the lack of employment opportunities.

Central YMCA headed up a focus group this month with the Sub-Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy.

The committee revealed that young people thought schools should discuss wider options, such as apprenticeships, more frequently with students.

Young people are crying out for more learning development opportunities
Rosi Prescott

Ms Prescott continued: “Young people are crying out for more learning development opportunities, so now it’s up to those working with them to guide them through their options.

“Apprenticeships can be a great option, and I welcome the increased focus being placed on them – it’s crucial that now we remember we must focus on quality of apprenticeships, not quantity.”

Read the full list of rankings and the World of Good report.