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Disabled children have largest gap when it comes to exam grades

17 February 2022

The Education Policy Institute (EPI) has published new research on the differences in exam grades between children from different backgrounds which shows Disabled children have a huge gap in their exam grades compared to their peers.

The gap is even larger for children with education, health and care plans (EHCPs).

‘Covid 19 and the disadvantage gaps in England 2020’ explores the differences in exam attainment between different groups of disadvantaged children, including those from black and minority ethnic communities and those living in poverty, as well as disabled children.

The report, which was covered by a range of media outlets including the Times Educational Supplement, is critical of Government attempts to close the attainment gap, leading to the EPI describing education policy as a ‘decade of failure’. The report also highlights Disabled children lost out under the teacher assessed grades at GCSE level, which was used as a replacement for exams which were disrupted because of the pandemic.

Associate director at the Education Policy institute Emily Hunt is worried that Disabled children could be left behind. She said: “It is concerning that the grade gap for students with special education needs (SEND) and non-SEND students widened in 2020.”     

In 2019, children with an EHCP scored grades 3.4 places lower than non-disabled children. That gap increased to 3.6 grades lower in 2020.

Fazilet Hadi, Head of Policy at Disability Rights UK said: “Yet again, we see how Disabled children and young people have lost out during the pandemic. The Government must do more to ensure Disabled children have the same life chances as non-disabled children. The Green Paper on SEND education is due to be published in March.”

The report is launched as the Government announced plans to establish a register of children who are being home educated, which the Association of Directors of Social Services estimates to be around 115,000.

According to the Guardian, parents who educate their children at home could face sanctions if they failed to register their child with their local council.

The Government consulted on the idea of a register in 2019, but is thought to have been prompted to take action in part because of the high number of pupil absences caused by the Covid pandemic.

Plans for a register have previously been condemned by parents of disabled children, arguing it was wrong that local authorities which had failed to provide appropriate provision for their children should then have the power to punish parents who had taken their children out of school.