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A third of disadvantaged pupils out of sustained work or education after leaving school

With one week before the UK heads to the polls, Teach First is calling on all parties to prioritise schools and teachers in their General Election pledges.

This aims to transform outcomes for young people and close the 'destinations gap'.

The latest data on Longer Term Destinations from the Department for Education reveals that a third (31%) of disadvantaged pupils were not recorded as being in sustained education or employment five years after completing their GCSEs, compared to just over one in ten (13%) of their more affluent peers.

The data shows the destination gap grew significantly over time. One year after taking their GCSEs, 11% of pupils from poorer backgrounds were not in sustained education or employment, compared to 4% of other pupils – a 7% difference. 

After three years this difference rises to 13% (28% vs 15%), while five years after GCSEs the gap has risen further to 18% (31% vs 13%).

The biggest gap is found between those in sustained education specifically.

Two-thirds (69%) of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds are not recorded as being in sustained education five years after taking their GCSEs, compared to half (53%) of non-disadvantaged pupils.

Those from poorer backgrounds are also less likely to be recorded as in an apprenticeship (4% vs 7%).

Teach First is concerned the destination gap will continue to grow in the coming years if action is not taken to combat the challenges that schools are facing, particularly those serving disadvantaged communities.

Previous polling by the charity found that 84% of teachers spent more time helping pupils with their mental health over the past academic year.

Schools are also facing significant challenges when recruiting and retaining teachers, with 86% saying that workload was the main contributor to staff shortages and 72% citing pay as a factor behind the struggle.  

The after-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic also loom large.

Alongside the learning lost during lockdown, attendance rates are significantly down since schools reopened, with the absence rate for pupils on free school meals twice as high as for their wealthier peers (14% vs 7%).

Teach First believes that education is the most powerful tool to boost young people’s opportunities, as well as providing the country with a highly skilled workforce fit for the challenges of the future.  

The charity is therefore calling on all parties to:

  • Inspire the next generation of teachers, incentivising them to work where they’re needed most by increasing trainee teacher salaries
  • Modernise the workforce by promoting a flexible working culture  
  • Diversify routes to entry and reduce costs of training through Teacher Degree Apprenticeships  
  • Weight funding towards schools serving disadvantaged communities by increasing the Pupil Premium in line with inflation, doubling Pupil Premium payments for pupils in long-term poverty and introducing a new Pupil Premium for 16 to 19-year-olds on free school meals
  • Commit to implementing a cross-government strategy to end child poverty  

Teach First has set out its policy positions in a pre-election paper: Ending Educational Inequality: Closing the Gap and Opening Doors.

Teach First CEO Russell Hobby said:

“This General Election presents all parties with an opportunity to show they can turn the tide and close the gap in opportunity for young people. Yet we know that many schools face significant challenges, which unless addressed could hold back the next generation.

“Great schools and teachers for all are central to this mission, with targeted funding and resources for schools serving disadvantaged communities vital if we are to allow every child to achieve their full potential.

“This is about basic fairness, but it is more than that. Economic growth depends on having a highly skilled workforce, which is why we want to see all parties place education at the heart of their offerings to the country, driving long-term growth from which everyone will benefit.”

Jackie Bowen Teach First Ambassador Principal at East Manchester Academy (EMA), said:  

“Most of our pupils are eligible for free school meals and the cost-of-living crisis has meant even more of our families are struggling.  We do whatever it takes to tackle the barriers that might prevent our pupils from succeeding in their next steps – helping to open their eyes to different routes after GCSEs.  

“Like many schools serving communities facing deprivation, we are having to fill local social care and mental health services gaps. With local authority and CAMHS waiting lists ever-growing, our community often has nowhere else to turn, so we pick up the pieces.  

“We can see how this wrap-around support is improving our pupils’ grades and boosts their confidence when deciding their destinations. But schools like ours need the right funding and resources so teachers and support staff can deliver long-lasting impact. Only then will our pupils have every chance of succeeding after they leave the gates for the last time.”

MEDIA CONTACTS: For more information and interviews, please contact the Teach First press office on 020 3862 8000, or email

About Teach First

  • Teach First is an education charity that is committed to giving children facing the biggest barriers the chance to fulfil their potential. It backs the schools with the toughest challenges. The charity finds and trains teachers, develops their leadership teams and plugs them into networks of diverse expertise and opportunities to create real change.
  • Since launching in 2003, Teach First has placed more than 17,000 teachers and leaders, has more than 100 headteachers in its training programme alumni and has supported over two million pupils.

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