Educational Inequality Gaps and Returns to Early Investment

Perhaps it is an obvious statement: investing in early education holds considerable potential for
improving the development of children from disadvantaged households. The extent of difference
such targeted payments can make may prove more shocking.

A policy brief published by the Economic and Social Research Council found that, by the age of 11
only 75% of children from the poorest fifth of British society reach their ‘expected level’ of
development in KS2 compared to 97% of children from the richest quintile.
A more stark figure shows that only 21% of children from the poorest fifth achieve 5 good GCSEs,
whereas 75% of their richer counterparts manage this benchmark.

Even more enlightening are the statistics published by the Department of Education in 2017 which
found that 40% of the development gap has emerged by the age of 5 whilst 40% of disadvantaged 5
year olds fail to meet their expected development standards.
The repercussions of initial developmental setbacks can be difficult to overcome, particularly in the
face of increasing difficulty and demands as children progress through the education system, as well
as the mental barrier that can exist as children struggle to keep up with peers. The described result
is particularly evident in the persistent income gap of those attending university, illustrating a marked
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Apart from the social benefits of creating a society increasingly defined through equalities of opportunity, the Department of Education note that just in the North West of England, improving the development and education of those from disadvantaged backgrounds could provide an extra £3.5 billion in income for Britain.

Certainly the brief outlined a number of targets coupled with budgets assigned to fulfill these, mindful of the difficulties in incentivising good teachers to stay in schools requiring improvement. In spite of this, it appeared a glaring omission was made, with little reference to the pay of teachers employed by state schools.
The above graph illustrates that teachers are increasingly exiting the teaching profession within a state-funded role, with retention rates declining rapidly. With OECD revelations that teacher’s salaries have declined by 12%, it’s little wonder why this phenomenon is occurring. Whether teachers are leaving to seek employment in the private sector or choosing to exit the profession entirely, the issue remains that there is increasingly less to attract both the new and experienced teachers needed to address development gaps. Certainly a migration of teachers from the public sector to the private sector underlines and perpetuates a gap in education delivery as only the more advantaged households will be able to afford quality teaching promised through private institutions.

Thus a certain insincerity has to be noted in government outlines which fail to address the needs of its teachers, whilst claiming commitment to closing a development gap which require significant investment.
Perhaps the following statement is also obvious: increased investment into the incentivization of teachers within public schools and more disadvantaged educational institutions will initiate improvements in development and educational needs.

Do you think the UK government is taking the right approach towards closing the development gap?

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