Children in Bolton from disadvantaged backgrounds have fallen further behind their classmates during the pandemic.

New figures from the Department for Education show that 30.3 per cent of disadvantaged children in Bolton achieved grade five or above in GCSE English and maths in 2021-22, compared to 54.5 per cent for all other children.

This means that the attainment gap was 24.2 per centage points last year – up from 21.7 in 2018-19, the last academic year uninterrupted by Covid-19.

And the figures also show that across England, the disadvantage gap index – a broader measure of child performance at school – reached its largest point in 10 years in 2021-22 after widening throughout the pandemic.

This news does not come as a shock to Bolton Council cabinet member for children’s services Cllr Anne Galloway, but she says there are mechanisms in place to attempt to improve the gap.

She said: “It is no surprise that the progress and attainment of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds has suffered at both a national and local level following the pandemic. However, disadvantaged students in Bolton have typically done better than the national average and the North West regional average.

“Schools in Bolton have done extensive work over the last few years developing their curriculums and the quality of their teaching and learning.

“They have developed targeted interventions with the extra resources they receive, for example with the Covid catch up premium and the pupil premium given to pupils on free school meals, to support those children from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

“We look forward to the further impact of these strategies going forward in what we hope will be less turbulent times.”

Education charity SHINE agreed with Cllr Galloway’s assessment, saying it is "saddened but not surprised" to see disadvantaged children fall behind.

Dr Helen Rafferty, senior programme manager at the charity, said: "We know that children from poorer backgrounds lost out on more learning than their wealthier peers, are more likely to experience challenges with attendance, and are most in need of stability and support from schools and teachers.

"Now, without intervention, the cost-of-living crisis and mooted cuts to already-stretched school budgets risk widening the gap even further."

The Department for Education says it is rolling out a £5bn education recovery programme following the pandemic.

A spokesperson said that targeted investment for areas in need is also being provided to improve standards for pupils across the country.

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