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Written Statement - Setting the revised target for the difference in attainment at the end of Foundation Phase (age 7) between pupils eligible for free school meals and those who are not

Huw Lewis, Minister for Education and Skills

Last week the ‘Academic achievement and entitlement to free school meals, 2014/15’ statistics were published. They show that we continue to make good progress in closing the attainment gap between those pupils eligible for free school meals and those not, at all key Phases.

My ambition is to eradicate inequalities in learner outcomes so that all learners, regardless of their background have high aspirations and an equal chance of achieving those aspirations.

In July 2013 I set the Tackling Poverty Action Plan target to reduce the attainment gap at the end of Foundation Phase between those eligible for free school meals and those not by 10 per cent by 2017, which equates to an absolute difference of 16.5 percentage points.

We have met and indeed exceeded the target 3 years early. Attainment has improved for both those eligible for free school meals and those not, but we want new targets to focus on improving results of pupils eligible for free school meals more quickly. I am therefore happy to announce that we have developed a more challenging target to continue this drive in improvement:

  1. A new national target of 80% of learners aged 7 eligible for free school meals achieving the expected level at the end of the Foundation Phase, as measured by the Foundation Phase Indicator, by 2017
  2. A new national target to reduce the gap in attainment levels between learners aged 7 eligible for free school meals and those that are not eligible for free school meals, who achieve the expected levels at the end of the Foundation Phase, as measured by the Foundation Phase Indicator, by 34% by 2017. This equates to an absolute difference of 12 percentage points.

The addition of a national target for attainment of pupils eligible for free school meals will ensure any reduction in the attainment “gap” is a true reflection of improvement overall.

By setting a more challenging target for reduced difference in attainment, we will ensure work focuses on improving results of pupils eligible for free school meals at a faster rate than those not eligible.

We also look forward to continuing to work with consortia and officials to explore further the reasons for any local authorities with large or increasing differences in attainment, and to identify good practice from those local authorities and schools which are performing well.