Flaws in the system: Influx of new FSM pupils causes attainment gap headache

Flaws in how we measure the eligibility and attainment of disadvantaged pupils must be ironed out if we are to properly support these young people.

Researchers have warned that recent and anticipated changes to eligibility for free school meals (FSM) will make it “almost impossible” to accurately track our progress in closing attainment gaps in the years to come.

A report from the National Foundation for Educational Research (Julius & Ghosh, 2022) says that huge numbers of newly eligible children are skewing the attainment figures and making it difficult to judge our true impact on the attainment gap.

The last few years have seen a notable increase in the number of FSM pupils.

In January 2017, 663,400 primary-age pupils and 414,300 secondary students were FSM-eligible. These figures now stand at just over one million primary pupils and 660,500 secondary students.

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