The W-Ever 6 Attainment Gap in Gospel Oak Primary School

Sponsor: Gospel Oak Primary & Nursery School
Sponsor Liaison: John Hayes and Dawn O’Driscoll
Student Team: Yezi Chen, Jack Gerulskis, Siyuan Li, Dieter Teirlinck
Abstract: Disadvantaged white British students, also known as the W-Ever 6 group, perform 38% worse than non disadvantaged white British students on their General Certificate of Secondary Education exams. Among all ethnicities, the W-Ever 6 group has one of the largest disparities in performance when compared with other white British students. At Gospel Oak Primary and Nursery School, we investigated the factors causing this gap in attainment by conducting interviews, surveys, and observational research. We found that attainment is the culmination of many intricate components, but on average, the W-Ever 6 group misses school more often, does fewer extracurriculars, and has lower aspirations. Closing the W-Ever 6 attainment gap is most effectively done by fostering a supportive school community that assists parents in providing their children with strong educational engagement at home.

The W-Ever 6 Attainment Gap in Gospel Oak Primary School

Parent Handbook


Executive Summary

Are equal educational opportunities a basic human right? Unfortunately not, because these opportunities are influenced by cultural and economic factors. Furthermore, a student’s educational opportunity is the culmination of many intricate components that all affect one another. This gap in opportunity leads to a gap in educational attainment between student groups who are on different sides of the cultural and economic spectrum.

An educational attainment gap is a difference in average exam scores between two different student groups. Since attainment gaps appear early in primary schools, it inevitably has a compounding effect that leads to the gap widening in later years. Attainment gaps are seen all over the world, but for the purposes of this project, we will focus on the gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged white British students. Disadvantaged white British students who have ever received a free school meal in the past 6 years are referred to as the W-Ever 6 group. There are many components of the W-Ever 6 attainment gap, but our research focused on only a few aspects of the issue.

During our research, we identified parental engagement and students’ linguistic skills to be two key factors that lead to the attainment gap. Therefore, the goal of this project is to collaborate with Gospel Oak Primary School to analyse parental engagement and students’ linguistic awareness and how those factors impact the educational attainment of W-Ever 6 students.

This research investigated the stated problem guided by the following objectives.

  1. To analyse W-Ever 6 and Ever 6 students’ linguistic skills and attainment.
  2. To improve students’ linguistic skills by collaborating with senior faculty and parents.
  3. To analyse parental engagement with the school and at home with their children.
  4. To improve parental engagement by introducing effective educational engagement styles based on existing research.

Our first method of collecting data was done by conducting observational research in classrooms and focus groups. Then, we analysed grades to evaluate students’ attainment in writing, reading, and maths. This allowed us to measure the attainment gap at Gospel Oak Primary School. Additionally, we conducted several interviews with senior staff members to hear the opinions of primary school educators.

We analysed the information gathered from our initial observations, focus groups, and interviews to collect findings concerning students’ performance, teaching strategies, and optimal learning environments. We learned that the school provides a supportive classroom setting, encouraging challenges, and quality oracy lessons. From the focus groups, we reinforced our findings on the importance of an effective home learning environment. High attaining students within the focus groups demonstrated a higher comprehension of the English language than the poor attaining students. It showed us that Ever 6 status is not a defining feature of a student’s attainment and that students with that status have the same ability as all other students to perform well. They are able to overcome obstacles by being provided with a nurturing at-home environment that is guided by strong parental engagement.

We also administered a survey to the parent body with the aim of determining how parents engage with students at home and school. Even though no identifiable information from the survey is included in this final report, the names were stored in order to associate parents with their children. This survey allowed us to draw conclusions on how parental engagement affects students’ attainment. Specifically, we found that Ever 6 parents read less to their children, attend fewer school events, and do fewer extracurriculars as seen in Figure 0.1 and Figure 0.2.

Figure 0.1: Survey Results for “What does your child do after school?”

Another interesting result from the survey is the answer to the question, “how many days a week a parent read to their children?”, which is seen in Figure 0.2. There’s a large difference in the amount of time Ever 6 parents and non Ever 6 parents read to their children. The majority of non Ever 6 parents read with their children six to seven days per week, but the majority of Ever 6 parents read with their children only three to five days. Just from this information alone, we can conclude that Ever 6 parents have lower rates of engagement with reading, and therefore their children perform worse on average. The children who read three to five days per week with a parent, score an average of 102.9 on reading exams at Gospel Oak Primary School. In comparison, the children who read six to seven days per week with a parent score an average of 111.9. There is a nine-point difference between these two groups on reading exam scores, which emphasizes the dramatic effect reading can have on a student’s attainment.


Figure 0.2: Survey Results for “How many days per week did you read to your child?”

The lack of effective engagement shows that economic status and ethnicity play roles in the way a parent interacts with their children. The reasons why Ever 6 parents engage less effectively is because they tend to have lower educational aspirations, less trust in the education system, and fewer resources for out-of-school engagement. Additionally, parents from different cultures have distinct values when it comes to educational priorities. Based on the gathered information, our project took two approaches to improve parental engagement overall.

Firstly, we created a booklet for parents to improve the at-home learning environment. We included parenting suggestions on the most effective style of educational engagement, ‘parental autonomy support’. This is defined as teaching your children how to be self-sufficient learners. Effective engagement is not determined by socioeconomic status or ethnicity, therefore, it should be a part of every student’s education. The booklet also included recommended activities based on children’s aspirations along with the estimated cost and duration.

Secondly, in order to improve parental collaboration with Gospel Oak Primary School, this project proposed implementing a new communication platform. Several characteristics of various online applications were analysed in order to meet the needs of Gospel Oak Primary School. A new medium of communication between parents and faculty will allow the parents to monitor their child’s performance, receive clarification on assignments, and learn about upcoming school events. The platform also includes useful features for teachers such as quiet hours and two-way communication.

While these recommendations will not close the attainment gap completely, we hope to have improved parent-teacher communication as well as the parent-child at-home learning environment. Parents determine the success of their children, and we hope our research and deliverables will help them do that. Unfortunately, the impact of our research is not easily verifiable which leaves a ‘gap’ for further research. Nonetheless, the W-Ever 6 attainment gap is a complex issue that requires many years, if not decades, to be solved.