Pity poor Britain. A G8 power, sixth largest economy worldwide according to IMF GDP figures, nuclear-armed, permanent member of the UN Security Council—and a permanent dunce in global education rankings; above all, if you’re poor.


A just-released research report, “The Reading Gap,” from the Sutton Trust, a UK foundation “set up in 1997, dedicated to improving social mobility through education,” demonstrates “the gap in achievement between high achieving boys from disadvantaged backgrounds and their better off peers.”

According to the report, by Dr. John Jerrim of the Institute of Education at the University of London:

“England’s gap in international reading tests between high achieving 15 year-old boys from the most and those from the least advantaged backgrounds is equivalent to 30 months (2.5 years) of schooling. Analysing the 2009 test scores from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) PISA tests, Dr Jerrim has found the high achievement reading gap in England is the second highest in the developed world. Only Scotland has a higher gap.”

“This places England 31st in the ranking out of 32 developed nations that take the OECD PISA survey,” the analysis continues. “Although the estimated confidence intervals are quite wide, England performs poorly relative to countries like Finland (ranked 2nd), Germany (3rd) and Canada (5th), where the gap is just one and a quarter years or less.”

reading“The report follows an Ofsted survey last month showing that many state schools don’t have adequate provision for highly able youngsters,” runs the Sutton Trust’s commentary, which continues:

“It also comes after Sutton Trust research in 2012 showed that only half as many English students reached the highest levels in the PISA Maths tests as the average across all OECD countries. Now the Sutton Trust is urging the government to ensure that schools have good provision for the brightest students, so that they don’t lose out in places at the best universities and the top professions to those whose parents can afford to pay fees at independent schools.”

“Effective  interventions  may  be  needed,” the report concludes, ” including a well-targeted ‘gifted and talented’ programme along with initiatives to raise aspirations.”

Unfortunately, the most likely interventions at present seem to be coming from outside the government, including the Reading Agency and the Sutton Trust itself. While hugely valuable, such actions draw attention away from the responsibility of the government to ensure that all its citizens are properly educated.

And this in the face of a current government that seems bent on picking quarrels with the educational establishment to score populist political points. Britain’s disadvantaged bright readers likely face a long wait for any substantial improvement.


  1. Unless the site author composes politically neutral articles I am sorry but the inherent bias poisons the piece.
    The Sutton Trust is a tool of the left therefore nothing it releases can be taken at face value.

    I suspect that perhaps poor English children don’t have their wealthier contemporaries ability nor inclination to wade through the treacle-like endless political correctness rampant in British schools in 2013.

    Funny isn’t it that when you gauge poor English children’s reading performance from free schools they tend to do so much better than the state schools inherited from a decade of New Think policy and staffed by zealous academically-incompetent drones of the left.

  2. Honestly, was it not impossible to observe the huge comparison between left-wing indoctrinated teachers running state schools and poor children’s reading ability at free and independent schools?

    The vast majority of children who read poorly are for the most part in state schools while free and independent schools have far better rates of literacy amongst poor English boys.

  3. Get your politics out of the debate. Factional point-scoring is one of the main reasons the situation is as bad as it is. I don’t hear this state versus private nonsense out of most continental nations, which average far higher levels of attainment.

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