Latest test results show disadvantage gap wider than ever

disadvantage gap e-spaces

How gathering regular, informed data in lessons can help close the gap

The Department for Education (DfE) has published the results of the very first statutory multiplication tables check, with over a quarter of participants scoring full marks, but yet more evidence of a disadvantage gap.

The test, taken by all year 4 pupils, is designed to assess students’ ability to “fluently recall” up to the 12 times table, which the government says is essential for tackling more complex maths problems as they continue through the school system. It took the form of an online assessment, where the participants were given 25 questions and only six seconds to respond to each one.

Calls for fewer unnecessary statutory assessments like this are increasing in the battle against teacher and pupil stress. The results don’t particularly benefit either party, as times table testing is regularly done in schools anyway. However, for the government and the general public, the results did come up with some interesting, if not very unexpected findings.

disadvantage gap e-spaces

What stood out in the results?

While there were no previous results to compare against, headline figures from the results included:

  • 27% of participants scored the maximum of 25, with a further 12% scoring 24.

  • The average score across all participants was 19.8

  • Boys performed slightly better than girls – they had an average score of 20, compared to 19.6 for the girls

However, a key figure from the results was regarding the average score of disadvantaged pupils (judged as those eligible for free school meals) compared to those who are better off. The mean score was 17.9, compared to 20.6 for those living in relatively comfortable situations.

This is not a new takeaway from test results generally, and in many ways, the COVID pandemic has exacerbated a situation that has seen very little change over the past two decades. This summer’s GCSE results showed that the disadvantage gap index widened to its highest level in 12 years largely as a result of the disruption to everyone’s learning. The relative lack of one-to-one help available, while lessons were done online, was crucial for disadvantaged pupils compared to those who would potentially have been able to afford private tutors.

But part of the problem is as much about the number of students that are now finding themselves in relative poverty, which has increased significantly in recent years, as much as recent reports that funding for disadvantaged pupils has decreased by nearly half a billion in the last seven years.

disadvantage gap girl with tablet e-spaces

Is technology the way forward?

The education system is broken, as it is clear that schools are constantly having to do more with less, and it is those pupils growing up in poorer households that always suffer the most. This is more than about the quality of teaching; this is about being able to give time to the students who need it most and help them to stay accountable so that prompt action can be taken when pupils fall behind in a subject.

Investing in and utilizing the use of technology, rather than throwing money at short-term solutions, is key to helping unlock the potential of all students and help even the playing field.

E-spaces’ new app is committed to helping both teachers and pupils work together more effectively, with its in-lesson assessment tool that helps establish who is engaging with what is being taught as it is happening. It eliminates bias, and all results are stored as data so teachers can more easily work out patterns of behavior in students and act on them more quickly.

Our BETA version is here. Several schools have signed up to assist us in the testing process, but we welcome further interest. If your school would like to help shape the future of education, fill out our contact us form.

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