Geographical breakdown of disadvantage gaps
This report includes new interactive geographic tools for understanding how disadvantage gaps vary across England. For all phases and levels of geography we compare the attainment of disadvantaged pupils locally to the attainment of non-disadvantaged pupils nationally.
Overall, there are substantial differences in the attainment of disadvantaged pupils at regional and local levels, as well as how different areas have fared during the post-pandemic period.1 We find that disadvantaged pupils in London do better than anywhere else and this gap between London and the rest of the country grows across education phases. The West Midlands stands out as the region with the second smallest disadvantage gaps across school phases, whilst both the South East’s and North East’s relative rankings decline between the ages of 5 and 16.
At a local authority level, Newham is notable in its success in consistently achieving the smallest disadvantage gap nationwide at the end of primary and secondary school. Slough also distinguishes itself as having one of the smallest gaps across phases outside of London. Meanwhile, by the end of secondary school, there are particularly large disadvantage gaps in Torbay, Kingston-upon-Hull and Blackpool, whilst noting that the latter two are also among the fifth most deprived local authorities in England.
There are some signs of promise in Opportunity Areas (OA) – the government’s flagship programme for place-based interventions to tackle social mobility – notably during the primary phase. However only one OA (Oldham) has managed to narrow its disadvantage gap across all phases between 2016 and 2022, at a time when the national gap was consistently widening.
The data file showing geographic disadvantage gaps in 2022 and changes over time, including by Parliamentary Constituency, can be downloaded here.
The role of ethnicity in geographic disadvantage gaps
The marked geographic variation in the attainment of disadvantaged pupils – with London clearly outperforming everywhere else – is a well-established finding. We have also previously shown that attainment varies by ethnicity and London’s more ethnically diverse pupil population could therefore be contributing towards its success. Previous research has looked at how regional attainment gaps for persistently disadvantaged pupils vary between white and ethnic minority pupils for earlier pre-pandemic cohorts. This has found that persistently disadvantaged white pupils tend to do poorly in all regions, whereas persistently disadvantaged minority ethnic pupils progress far better in London than similar pupils in any other region. This suggests that a key part of London’s success has been in breaking the link between poverty and low attainment for ethnic minority pupils – likely linked to the high aspirations and ambition of migrant families – whereas the low achievement of white persistently disadvantaged pupils appears to be a systemic problem facing the education system rather than a geographic one.
Use the links below to explore disadvantage gap by region, local authority and opportunity areas.