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Worst-performing schools in places like Thanet miss out on government Levelling Up money because of good ones elsewhere in Kent

Struggling schools in Kent and Medway have lost out under a government initiative aimed at improving classroom standards in poorly performing areas.

The government has launched a scheme as part of its Levelling Up agenda designed to support schools in their efforts to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds and close the attainment gap.

Schools have missed out on Levelling Up funding Credit: iStock
Schools have missed out on Levelling Up funding Credit: iStock

Some 55 areas dubbed “cold spots” are to benefit from the reforms and have been designated as Education Investment Areas.

But despite standards being poor in some parts of the county that are equally under-performing, the average level of attainment across Kent is pushed up by those that are performing well.

One MP questioned why Dorset - the second richest county in the UK for property wealth - was on the list when Kent was not.

Thanet South MP Craig Mackinlay said: “I want the best education to be provided in East Kent and I find it scarcely believable, given various indices of deprivation, which are always higher in East Kent, that we haven't qualified for one of these to be assessed as an education investment area. I will be speaking to ministers appropriately.”

The number of pupils in Thanet achieving five or more GCSEs including English and maths in 2019 was 53.2% - the lowest in the county - compared to 65.7% for Kent as a whole.

Analysis of Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation figures show Kent is the worst-performing area in England when it comes to GCSE grades.

Just 5.5% of students achieve the top GCSE grade of 9 in the core subjects of Maths, English Literature, Chemistry, Biology, and Physics, compared with the average for the whole of the England (11.8%).

Greater Manchester's 17.7% put it top of the list.

The government said the places it identified were where outcomes were the weakest based on test and exam results. No new money has been pledged under the scheme.

One proposal for the new areas is to help schools retain staff in high priority subjects by offering extra payments.

The areas would also benefit by being given priority for new specialist sixth form free schools.

These, says the DfE, would ensure talented children from disadvantaged backgrounds have access to the highest standard of education.

Education secretary of state Nadim Zahawi said: "Raising our expectations and aspirations for children, as well as creating a high-skilled workforce, will end the brain drain that sees too many people leaving communities in order to succeed. These plans will help create a level playing field and boost the economy, both locally and nationally."

The government assessed which areas would be eligible on the basis of schools’ Key Stage 2 performance, chiefly the proportion of pupils reaching the expected standard in reading, writing and maths. It also based its decisions on average Progress 8 score.

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