Just how big is learning gap?

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Disagreements have surfaced about how big the attainment gap in Buckingham’s senior schools actually is.

This is the gap in socio-economic backgrounds and outcomes between children who pass the 11+ and go to grammar schools and children who go to state schools in Buckinghamshire, which in many cases have a lower Ofsted rating.

There are also clashing statistics about how many schools have bad Ofsted rankings.

Children’s Social Care and Learning Select Committee for Buckinghamshire county council have recently released a report that addresses these issues.

At a meeting of the committee on July 5 council members took questions from the public about the report.

Derek Berry, who came to speak at the meeting, asked “Why are the attainment gap results failing to improve in Bucks Upper Secondary schools?” and “why do Bucks have over 50% of the secondary Upper Schools with low Ofsted ratings?”.

He said: “Basically I don’t think the questions were answered [in the report] and were dealt with in what I would consider to be a very flippant way.”

Councillor Zahir Mohammed (Con), responded: “The result is that we have actually narrowed the gap here in buckinghamshire. It’s narrowed by 3%, where nationally it’s gone up by 1, so that is actually an improvement. I have to add to that we need to look at this gap in context.

“We can’t look at it in isolation because if you look at the upper results that our students are getting it’s around 68%, so that’s 10% above the national.”

He also stressed that four schools have recently come out of adverse Ofsted ratings.

During the meeting, Mr Berry’s phone rung while Cllr Mohammed was speaking, and he was told that was “very rude” . Councillor Robin Stuchbury (Lab), who has campaigned on this issue, said: “we need to do much more on it.”

Councillor Paul Irwin (Con) said: “I think a gap will always difficult in this county because we have a grammar school system that I’m not a particular fan of, I don’t think there’s any secret there.”