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Gwynne column: Tackling the 'disadvantage gap' in education

In his latest Reporter column, Denton MP Andrew Gwynne says tackling the education attainment gap must be a priority in the country's recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the things I am most passionate about is education. More specifically, the right to a good education no matter where you grow up or where you live. 

This passion was one of the reasons that I got into politics in the first place. As a local lad from Denton, I benefitted from alternative routes to further education, starting out at Egerton Park Community High School (now Denton Community College), before studying towards a BTEC National Certificate and then a Higher National Diploma in Business and Finance. 

I was really disappointed, then, to read the latest report on the ‘disadvantage gap’ in Education. This report, published by the Education Policy Institute, gives us a useful snapchat of the gap in grades between disadvantaged students and their peers.

Across the constituency of Denton in Reddish, it found that disadvantaged pupils were 1.3 grades behind their better off peers by the time they took their GCSEs. 

It also found that over 26 per cent of local pupils were classed as disadvantaged, higher than the National Average. 

These figures made me really angry. We hear a lot in this country about ‘levelling-up’, but until we tackle the huge gaps in educational attainment, that will remain a fantasy. 

There are several ways that I think we can address these concerning figures. We need to recruit thousands of new teachers and provide staff with the training that they need to deliver the very best for children. This is more important than ever in the aftermath of the pandemic, where millions of children have had their learning disrupted.

We also need to make sure that we protect student choice in further education, and give young people access to top notch professional careers advice in school. 

It’s also vital that we guarantee that all young people learn in safe and supportive environments. This is one of the reasons that I have been so determined to secure additional funding from the Government to repair Russell Scott Primary School in Denton – a fight that I’m not going to give up any time soon. 

As we continue to recover from the pandemic, we must make tackling the education attainment gap a priority. By doing so, we can give young people the opportunity to succeed, no matter where they grow up. In turn, this will help us build a better, fairer, and more successful country for decades to come.

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