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Disadvantage: widening the lens

Disadvantage: widening the lens

Disadvantage: Widening the lens aims to shine a light on those pupil groups that are statistically more likely to experience educational disadvantage, beyond the pupil premium measure. We want to ensure all children have thrive on their educational journey, improve outcomes and keep wellbeing central.

campaigns illustration depicting student success

Disadvantage in education is consistently reported as one of the biggest challenges that schools and trusts face. We recognise socio-economic factors as being the most common catalyst of disadvantage and impacting children from different backgrounds. Research also tells us that there are other pupil groups who are facing barriers to attainment and that educational disadvantage goes beyond pupil premium.

Governing boards have a pivotal role to play in ensuring that pupils in their schools and trusts who are at a disadvantage have the support they need to learn and should:

The Governance Handbook

“Consider how the school is going to raise standards for all children … [including] … those receiving free school meals and those who are more broadly disadvantaged.”

NGA are collaborating with other experts in the field to support governing boards and school and trust leaders in addressing the wider disadvantage gap in their schools/trusts, educating and resourcing them through evidence based research and toolkits to inform and equip. 

Our partners include The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)Place2BeTwo Ten TherapyThe Children’s SocietyClass 13 and Marc Rowland. 

Marc Rowland, Unity Research School

“We need to remove the deficit discourse around disadvantage and its impact on learning and participation in school life. Disadvantaged pupils and their families are not a problem to be solved. They are our school community and held in high regard.”

What we want governing boards to do

1. Explore

  • Watch the webinar: The Disadvantage 360: widening the lens webinar shares the latest views from key sector voices, explores what we mean by ‘disadvantage’ and explains how governing boards develop a strategic approach with school leaders to address disadvantage.
  • Read the guidance: Our new Widening the lens on disadvantage guidance is designed to help governing boards explore what disadvantage means in their context and identify pupil groups who may need additional support.
  • Read the toolkits: Our toolkits, which will be extended over time, are designed to help governing boards focus on the drivers that are impacting pupils in their school/trust, including vulnerable pupils, those with SEND and those living in poverty.

What we want governing boards to do

2. Discuss

Use the resources to begin a conversation with your board and school leaders. Discuss what disadvantage looks like in your local context, looking beyond national narratives, and seeking assurances from school and trust leaders that the organisation is able to correctly identify the key barriers that impact on pupils realising their full potential.


What we want governing boards to do

3. Get in touch

Get in touch with us by emailing Fiona Fearon at to tell us: 

  • What are you doing? We would like to hear about successful strategies you have implemented to address educational disadvantage in your school, as well as useful resources and organisations you are working with.
  • What do you need? Let us know what further support you need and challenges you are facing.

The current context

  • In 2020/21, 18.3% of pupils with SEN achieved grades 5 or above in English and mathematics GCSEs, compared to 58.0% of pupils with no identified SEN (DfE, 2022).
  • 37% (800,000) of children in England are living in poverty but not entitled to free school meals. (The Child Poverty Action Group, 2021) 
  • Children who had a social worker in their GCSE year were around half as likely to achieve a strong pass in maths and English than their peers (DfE, 2022)
  • Higher Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) scores (the tool used by schools to measure wellbeing) are significantly associated with lower attainment at GCSE. (NatCen, 2019)
  • Children from a Black Caribbean background are three times more likely to be excluded than their White peers (Timpson, 2019) and on average 34 months behind academically by the end of year 11. (EPI, 2020)

You can find out more about the statistics around disadvantage in our toolkits.

Further resources

Learn more with our range of Governing Matters magazine articles: 

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