Brightest kids from poor backgrounds 'lose out in reading'

Brightest kids from poor backgrounds 'lose out in reading'

Some of the brightest children from disadvantaged backgrounds can have reading levels two and half years behind their wealthier peers, according to new research from the Sutton Trust.

Boys are likely to suffer the most, with a gap of 30 months between high-achieving 15-year-old boys from wealthy and poorer backgrounds.

The research was carried out by Dr John Jerrim of the Institute of Education at the University of London, and tested pupils' performances in international reading tests.

Among the brightest segment of children, Scotland showed the highest gap in the developed world, and England the second highest, according to the research.

When comparing pupils of all abilities, the least advantaged fifth of English 15-year-olds lag 28 months behind the richest fifth of pupils, with England coming 23rd out of 32 countries in the report, ahead of France, New Zealand and the USA.

The Sutton Trust has urged schools to make provisions for their brightest students, to ensure they do not lose out on places at top universities to those who can afford to pay fees at independent schools.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: "It matters because it is clearly economically inefficient not to tap into talent wherever it exists.

By not stretching our most able students from all backgrounds, we are not only failing them, we are reducing our ability to compete globally. Moreover, such under-achievement perpetuates those inequalities which make it so hard for bright children to move up in society."