Aspiring headteachers 'should work in disadvantaged areas'


Teachers should not be able to become headteachers until they have worked in disadvantaged schools, a cross-party report on educational inequality has urged.

The Commission on Inequality in Education has also called for subsidised housing for teachers in poorer areas so schools can attract and keep good staff.

Its report found an education gap between rich and poor children, with pupils in poorer areas falling behind those from richer homes.

The commission, chaired by Nick Clegg, said pupils in disadvantaged areas are more likely to be taught by younger teachers, who lack a degree in their subject and are more likely to leave for another job after a short time.

It also identified a regional disparity in GCSE results, with more than 60% of pupils in London achieving five good grades, compared to 55% in the West and East Midlands.

The findings were published on Thursday as BBC News reported that serious concerns have been raised about educational standards in Derby.

A headteacher told the broadcaster standards in the city were an "utter calamity", while a spokesman for Ofsted said there was "a dearth of effective academy trusts to take over failing schools".

The commission, whose members include Conservative MP Suella Fernandes and Labour MP Stephen Kinnock, produced recommendations to reduce the gap in teaching.

They include calls for schools in disadvantaged areas to get funds to help teachers with renting or buying a home, and to make teaching in a disadvantaged area a condition of gaining the headship qualification.

The report also calls for measures to increase parental engagement, such as contracts between teachers and parents, and a government-funded programme of primary school "family literacy" classes in poorer areas.

Mr Clegg said: "It is simply unacceptable that, as revealed in our report, poorer children are generally taught by less experienced teachers and that their life chances are shaped by the postcode in which they live.

"In the end, this report confirms something that everybody intuitively knows already - the best education relies on good quality teachers and supportive parents."

Former Labour education secretary Lord (David) Blunkett said inequality has "bedevilled the UK for generations" and called the report a "stark reminder" of the failure of local and national government.

"London, and particularly east London, were transformed not by income alone but by aspiration and educational practice," he said.

"But reinventing the wheel, trashing what has come before, concentration on structures rather than on standards, has bedevilled those efforts to transform the life chances of children who, through no fault of their own, live in the wrong neighbourhood, in the wrong region.

"For so many children the fight against inequality begins at birth, we have an obligation as a nation to provide them with the means to win that battle."

A Department for Education (DoE) spokesperson said: "This Government wants to make sure that every pupil gets a world-class education regardless of their background or where they live, and we have made significant progress.

"There are 1.8 million more pupils in good or outstanding schools than in 2010, more disadvantaged students than ever before attending university and we are investing an additional £500 million a year into high quality technical education."

In a speech at the Sutton Trust on Wednesday, Education Secretary Justine Greening outlined measures to improve social mobility through her department's Opportunity Areas programme.

"There are now 12 of these areas where we can work closely with our partners on the ground to develop more innovative solutions to poor performance to lift up education outcome," she said.