Primary school children from poorer Horsham families have one of the lowest achievement rates in the country, according to a new report.
The government’s Social Mobility Commission (SMC) published its State of the Nation 2017 report last week, which examined the life chances of people born into a disadvantaged background.
The report focussed on four sections – early years, school, youth and adulthood – representing education, employment and the likelihood of someone owning their own home.
When it came to the attainment levels of disadvantaged children at the end of Key Stage 2 (Year 6), fewer than one-in-five Horsham youngsters – 17 per cent – reached the expected standard. This compared to 47 per cent of their classmates and 53 per cent nationally.
Only Hinckley & Bosworth, in the East Midlands, Wychavon, in the West Midlands, and East Dorset saw lower scores.
The figures for the rest of West Sussex, included: Arun 19 per cent, Chichester 20 per cent, and Worthing 23 per cent. The report used the Department for Education figures from 2016. The 2017 figures are due to be published this month.
In addition, the report placed Horsham in the bottom 60 for the percentage of disadvantaged children attending a primary school rated ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ by Ofsted.
The picture changed dramatically when it came to secondary education.
Horsham placed joint-highest in the country for the percentage attending high-rated secondary schools, and 30th out of 324 for the Attainment 8 scores achieved by disadvantaged students.
Attainment 8 measures the performance of students in eight subjects. In Horsham the score for disadvantaged pupils was 55.6, compared to 56.1 for their peers and 48.5 nationally.
The percentage going on to achieve A/AS-Levels and other Level 3 qualifications was also the highest in the county, at 35.7 per cent, and has been rising steadily since slumping to just 13 per cent in 2010.
The report made for grim reading for some parts of West Sussex. Crawley, Chichester and Arun were listed among the country’s 65 ‘coldspots’ – the areas which offered the worst opportunities for social progress. Only Mid Sussex made it into any of the ‘hotspots’ rankings.
A spokesman for West Sussex County Council said the results of the SMC’s study were “concerning”.
He added: “In the last few years we have worked hard to develop the support we offer our families and our new early help service tackles families’ problems before they become more serious.
“This has been a success and hopefully this will show a shift in social mobility in the years ahead.”
The SMC noted that London took up many of the high social mobility ‘hotspots’, which was credited in part to higher school funding and investment.
The council spokesman added: “School funding is also a key issue for us and we have been consistently calling for fairer funding for our schools by working with our MPs and head teachers over the last couple of years.
“Funding could be considered a factor, however, we need to continue working with our district and borough councils to develop effective improvement plans to tackle social mobility.
“We are already working to develop improvements for our disadvantaged pupils. We will be looking at the report in more detail to come up with the best way forward.”