Written evidence submitted by Liverpool City Region Combined Authority




Department of Education Select Committee

– House of Commons


Liverpool City Region Combined Authority


5 June 2020


Response to Call for Evidence – Inquiry on left behind white disadvantaged pupils



  1.               Purpose


1.1             To provide the House of Commons Education Select Committee with evidence in relation to the work of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (LCRCA) and appropriate partners as it relates to supporting left behind white pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.



  1.               Background


2.1             As a Mayoral Combined Authority, LCRCA has a number of strategic responsibilities and partnerships which support the delivery of programmes relating to the employment, skills and support agenda. These involve a close interface with and work alongside the families of white pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.


2.2             Our partnership working with the education departments within local councils, has provided insight into pre-existing challenges. Whilst this submission draws on elements of our previous understanding in this area, it is understood that the nature of the Covid-19 crisis will exacerbate existing challenges that will have lifelong consequences for white pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.



  1. The extent of underachievement for white pupils who are eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) and how well the DfE’s statistics (including Progress 8 measures) capture that.


3.1             The underachievement of white FSM pupils is regularly cited within policy, with this cohort having the lowest level of attainment. There has been renewed cause for concern for white FSM pupils, as there is a common narrative that depicts lower income white pupils as having the lowest achievement rate when compared to FSM pupils from ethnic minority backgrounds. However the data for this narrative is only provided by the DfE at a national level.


3.2             It is evident, that on a national level, at all key stages, there is a vast achievement gap associated with gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic circumstances. The limited availability of DfE statistics at a local level creates barriers to regional comparisons. The lack of data provided by the DfE at a local authority (LA) level means that it is difficult to ascertain the true scale of white FSM pupil achievement within deprived communities.


3.3             Some of the relevant data can be accessed through DfE underlying data, however different datasets are published for each key stage. For example:



3.4             Consequently, it is difficult to assess the achievement of different ethnic demographics of pupils that are eligible for FSM, or find consistent filters. There are more exact statistics that are published by the DfE at KS2 and KS4, however LAs have to rely on their own ethnicity data and opportunities for national learning from published regional statistics is lost.


3.5             The KS4 results for the Liverpool City Region demonstrates that on average, a lower percentage of white pupils regardless of eligibility for FSM, achieve grade 5 or above in English or Mathematics, with only 17% of white pupils in Knowsley achieving these grades.


3.6             Similarly, FSM pupils are even less likely to achieve a grade 5 or above, regardless of ethnicity, with only 9.9% of FSM pupils in Knowsley achieving these grades. The Progress 8 results also highlight the extent to which underachievement in prevalent throughout the Liverpool City Region. On average, in the Liverpool City Region, FSM pupils have a -0.6 lower Progress 8 score than non-FSM pupils


  1.               The variation within the cohort of white pupils who are eligible for FSM (including regional variation, and variation between the five specific ethnic groups that sit under the broad ‘White’ category), and how well the DfE’s statistics capture that:


4.1             The available data demonstrates that whilst the ethnicity of a pupil can be interpreted as a having an effect on achievement, it is clear that the socioeconomic circumstances of pupils also impact on the achievement of pupils. It is evident that overall there is a high level of underachievement in the City Region, particularly in LAs that have a higher rates of deprivation and are predominantly white. Whist the socioeconomic factors are not the cause of the underachievement, there is a clear correlation. Whilst the national statistics do capture a wide variation between the five white ethnic groups, the DfE does not release this information on a local authority or regional level. The interrogation of data to this level has to be performed in NCER Nexus once the DfE has released the NPD (National Pupil Database) datasets to NCER.




  1. The principal factors that contribute to this underachievement, with reference to:


The availability and quality of early years provision


5.1             It is essential that there is high quality early years provision available to children as this provision is essential in ensuring effective communication and language development. This is a reliable indicator of future achievement in children. Not only does having a speech, language or communication need affect a child’s day-to-day life. If undetected and/or unaddressed, it can have a negative impact on their future health and wellbeing.


5.2             In Halton, communication and language delay is a key factor influencing underachievement in the early years. Widescale implementation of a common assessment and intervention tool through early year’s provision, has enabled Halton Borough Council to identify the prevalence of Speech, Language and Communication difficulties in the local Early Years population and target interventions appropriately.


5.3             Baseline data from Halton Wellcomm assessments undertaken in November 2019 showed that 50% of children tested under 5 were struggling with communication development, which is over 40% the expected rate. In any given population, only 10% of children tested under 5 are expected to have these challenges. 



The role of place (reflecting regional variations) and the home learning environment


5.4             Multiple studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between a pupil’s home environment and their attainment. The Liverpool City Region has one of the highest child poverty rates in the country, with an estimated 1 in 3 children growing up in poverty. Over 300 of the Liverpool City Regions neighbourhoods are in the 1st decile of the most deprived LSOAs nationally.  This has a profound effect on the achievement of pupils who live there as is demonstrated by the above data.


5.5             Around 70% of Liverpool City Region neighbourhoods have a lower healthy life expectancy than the national average, with over 15% of those expected to have a 10 year shorter healthy life than average. Deprived communities such as Garston in Liverpool, are in the worst performing decile nationally for air quality and blue/green space. These communities also have higher health deprivation, and lower quality housing stock. This has led to poorer child health particularly in Liverpool and Sefton, which have some of the highest decile for childhood obesity. Whilst many areas of the Liverpool City Region have high connectivity rates, material deprivation is still a key factor in underachievement. The recent Covid-19 crisis has highlighted a large number of disadvantaged pupils require material support, as many do not have any internet-connected devices.








Chart 1: Most Deprived Areas in the Liverpool City Region (Overall), 2019


Source: MHCLG Index of Multiple Deprivation (2019)



  1.               The effects of COVID-19 on this group


6.1             It is anticipated that the number of white disadvantaged pupils within Liverpool City Region will increase as a result of Covid-19. The above data demonstrates the scale of the underachievement of this cohort within our City Region.


6.2             There are currently 77,761 pupils eligible for Free School Meals within Liverpool City Region. It is estimated that there have been between 20,000 and 75,000 new Universal Credit applications across the Liverpool City Region since the onset of Covid-19. Many of these applicants will have children who will now become eligible for Free School Meals and become classed as disadvantaged.


6.3             The closure of schools, colleges and training providers will disproportionally impact on an increasing number of white pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds across the City Region. Prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, The Education Policy Institute found that disadvantaged children are already on average one and a half years of learning behind other pupils by the time they take their GCSEs. The impact of Covid-19 will not only increase the number of disadvantage children but on their educational progress and attainment.


6.4             One key contributing factor to this is the reliance on digital learning during the school closure period. A large proportion of Liverpool City Region neighbourhoods tend not to be engaged in the digital world, these neighbourhoods also tend to be the most deprived. In a briefing note released on the 18th May 2020, The Institute of Fiscal Studies found that, “School closures are almost certain to increase educational inequalities. Pupils from better-off families are spending longer on home learning; they have access to more individualised resources such as private tutoring or chats with teachers; they have a better home set-up for distance learning; and their parents report feeling more able to support them.”


6.5             Pre-Covid-19, pupils across Liverpool City Region had higher than national average rates of absence and persistent absence at both primary and secondary phases. It is anticipated that the long term impact of school closures will create further barriers to attendance for white disadvantaged pupils. Research on the achievement of children who have missed significant periods of schooling due to authorised absences suggest a large overall impact on achievement in addition to widening of the disadvantage gap that is expected based on studies of summer learning loss. School closures will increase this impact and widen the gap.


6.6             Liverpool City Region has a significant number of neighbourhoods characterised by deprivation. The scale of deprivation, and the impact this has on resilience and economic opportunity will increase due to the impact of Covid-19 which in turn will impact on white disadvantaged pupils.


6.7             In many areas of the Liverpool City Region, especially those that experience high amounts of deprivation, average household income is significantly below national levels. 32% of middle super output areas (MSOAs) in the Liverpool City Region fall in the bottom 10% nationally in terms of net household income. We expect household income to fall because of COVID-19 as many workers lose their jobs or receive a 20% pay cut as a result of being furloughed on the government’s job retention scheme. OBR suggests that unemployment will rise from 3.8% to 10% nationally. Following this trend, unemployment in the Liverpool City Region could rise to almost 11%, which equates to an increase of around 50,000 people.


  1.               The impacts of this underachievement, both for individuals and for communities


7.1             Underachievement at school impacts negatively on both individuals and the communities in which they live. As of 2019, the total number of NEETs in Liverpool City Region stood at 2,200 individuals. Based on current costs (Bradshaw), public services can expect to spend, on average approximately £43.2 million annually on the categories outlined for NEET individuals. This equates to a cost of over £19,600 per individual NEET in Liverpool City Region, not to mention the longer term costs to both our region and the UK Government.


7.2             The Office for National Statistics has found that educational achievement was the most important predictor identified of the likelihood that someone will be in poverty or severe material deprivation in adulthood.  Since residents of the Liverpool City Region fall in the bottom 10% nationally in terms of net household income they are far more likely to be negatively impacted on and there is therefore a much higher likelihood of intergenerational transition of disadvantage.


7.3             The correlation between poor health and disadvantage is also of concern for residents of Liverpool City Region. The health challenges the Liverpool City Region faces are not evenly spread. There are large disparities between areas in terms of healthy life expectancy; white residents of areas who experience high levels of deprivation such as north Liverpool, south Sefton and east Wirral can be expected to live much shorter healthy lives than residents of other parts of the Liverpool City Region. Since underachievement at school is a factor that increases the chances of a school leaver continuing to be disadvantaged the long term health implications should be carefully considered.


  1.               Priorities for the Government in terms of tackling this issue, with reference to:


The value of locally-tailored solutions, including youth groups and community organisations


8.1             Locally-tailored solutions to the issues that white disadvantaged pupils face should be encouraged and adequately funded by the Government. Youth groups and community organisations are critical to providing support to thousands of disadvantaged families across the Liverpool City Region. Funding should be made available to ensure that they can expand their provision as they are best placed to understand the localised issues and work directly with communities and schools to find bespoke sustainable solutions, such as those described below, that increase the life chances of young people.


8.2             The high prevalence of speech, language or communication needs among disadvantaged children in the Liverpool City Region is thought to contribute to the achievement gap that exists by the time children enter school and continues until they leave.


8.3             Halton Borough Council was awarded a sum of money from the Early Outcomes Fund to start to address the impact of poor communication skills found in pre-school children living in areas of disadvantage. Data gathered from Spring 2020 assessments show an improvement in data (46% of children have an identified communication difficulty – down by 4%), they are cautiously optimistic that their approach is having impact. However, they are yet to understand the impact of the current COVID 19 outbreak on our local children.


8.4             In partnership with the Steve Morgan Foundation, SHINE, the North Birkenhead Development Trust and Wirral Council, Right to Succeed are considering how young people’s outcomes in North Birkenhead might be transformed, right through from cradle to career as part of a place based change project. We implore the committee to examine how such locally-tailored solutions such as this can transform white disadvantaged children’s lives.


8.5             In order to support the work of schools and ensure that they are able to focus on the education of pupils we would ask that the government provide additional and sustained funding to wider children and young people’s services. This includes for early intervention services, youth services and social care.


The school system


8.6             It is essential that the Government ensure that existing educational inequalities are tackled within the school system. Schools will be at the heart of our country’s efforts to recover following Covid-19, it is therefore essential that the Government do all they can to support these efforts.


8.7             Liverpool City Region schools and their staff should have the same opportunities afforded to other areas which will enable them to develop their skills and expertise in tackling the underachievement of disadvantaged white pupils. Liverpool City Region is not entitled to funding for any of the NPQ Leadership programmes because it is a) not an Opportunity Area and b) not an Achieving Excellence area. We strongly request that the Committee considers this issue with a view to asking Government to fund such opportunities for Liverpool City Region teaching staff who wish to develop their leadership skills.


8.8             Liverpool City Region has not been included in the early roll out of the Early Career Framework Professional Development Package commencing in September 2020. We request that the committee considers this issue with a view to asking Government to include the Liverpool City Region early career teachers in this opportunity to afford them the support that is needed when tackling the challenging circumstances within which they are starting their careers. This support may help to retain teachers into the teaching profession and ensure that schools do not face a teacher shortage in the longer term.


8.9             Funding cuts across education and local government sectors since 2010 has left schools across Liverpool City Region with decimated school budgets, leading to a rise in individuals failing to reach required standards; increased class sizes and a greater strain on an already stretched teacher workforce. Continued failure to address these problems will deny a generation of children the access to the best possible education available within the state sector. We ask that the Government recognise this challenge and provide ring fenced funding to ensure that schools are adequately resourced to tackle the pre-existing underachievement of white disadvantage pupils.


8.10        In order to adequately tackle the impact of Covid-19 on white disadvantaged pupils we strongly urge the committee to request that the Government double the amount of pupil premium funding for a minimum of twelve months to mitigate what are expected to be catastrophic consequences for white disadvantage pupils. The disadvantage weighting in the 16-19 funding formula should also be doubled for all pupils.


8.11        DfE data releases need to be consistent across all key stages and have the functionality to drill down to sub-category level. This will provide both greater transparency and opportunity for targeted interventions based on clear evidence.



  1.               Further Information


9.1              Representatives of Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, would be happy to assist in providing further evidence, either written or oral, should the committee require it.


July 2020