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Charity highlights rift between rich and poor in Kent

11 schools in Medway facing merger or closure
11 schools in Medway facing merger or closure

by political
editor Paul Francis

A children's charity has labelled as "totally unacceptable"
the difference in GCSE results between poorer pupils in Kent and
those that are better off.

Save The Children says that 46 per cent of the county's poorest
children get five good GCSEs at grades A* to C compared to 75 per
cent of those that are better off.

It has measured the difference by examining exam passes of
pupils on free school meals, regarded as an indicator of

The charity says the gap could be closed with a cash injection
of £68m through the government's planned 'pupil premium' - a policy
that will allocate schools more funding for less well-off

Save The Children, which has launched its "Better Odds" campaign to address the problem, says the gap in Kent remains "wide open" despite politicians' promises to close it.

Sally Copley, Save the Children's Head of UK policy, said: "It's
simply wrong that at every stage of schooling, the poorest children
in Kent do worse and make less progress than their better-off

"Having such an attainment gap is totally unacceptable in 2010.
To break this cycle of underachievement, children from the poorest
homes must be given high-quality additional support to ensure they
can achieve their potential. To provide this, head teachers need
substantially more money."

"By doing this, we'll benefit all Kent's children in the long
run - helping raise standards, improving results and bringing more
money into schools."

KCC's own figures suggest that while GCSE results overall have
improved, pupils on free school meals performed below the national
average in 2009 with the gap widening on the previous year's

Education secretary Michael Gove says he plans to give schools
the power to prioritise children from poorer families above

He says that could encourage parents to apply to schools they
previously not considered as realistic.

KCC Cabinet Member for Children, Families and Education,
Sarah Hohler, said: "In Kent, we have already seen the benefits of
giving schools their own funding to provide one-to-one tuition and
other extra curricular support.

"The National Challenge programme is a good example. The
government provided schools in the programme with additional money
to support specific areas of the curriculum.

n 30 to just
four."In just three years, because of the extra funding,
dedication of our teachers and support from Kent County Council the
number of schools in the programme has reduced more tha

What do you think? Join the debate by adding your comments below
What do you think? Join the debate by adding your comments below

"With more and more students achieving GCSE
qualifications, their chances in life are much improved.

"They have been empowered and inspired to continue in
education or move on to employment or training.

"We hope that the pupil premium, a key plank of the new
Coalition government’s policy, will be used to good effect by
schools once the detail is announced.

"KCC is committed to supporting schools to make the most
of the additional funding so that it helps to transform the lives
and life chances of thousands of children and young

"This September, we have also introduced a headteacher for
all looked after children and care leavers.

"Tony Doran will be working with schools and social
workers to improve the children and young people's experience at
school and help them gain skills for the future."

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