Disadvantaged children in York are ‘significantly’ behind their classmates

Photograph: picjumbo_com / Pixabay

Disadvantaged children in York achieve significantly lower grades than other youngsters of the same age.

A City of York Council meeting heard that in 2017 the city’s five-year-olds were further behind their classmates than anywhere else in England.

And that – although the gap has narrowed slightly since then – it is still wider than the national average for children aged seven to 11.


Derek Sutherland, head of primary school achievement at the council, told a meeting:

  • In 2017 York’s disadvantaged five year-olds were further behind their peers than anywhere else in England.

    That woke us up a little bit.

Social mobility group

Mr Sutherland said “one of the reasons why our gap is so wide is because attainment generally of children is so good.

“Disadvantaged children usually have fewer words in their vocabulary.

“It’s all about our language development.

“We are working with the schools that have the widest gaps.”


A social mobility group has been created to help boost results for disadvantaged children – working with schools to help develop pupils’ language skills and enlisting a speech therapist to support teachers.

A report prepared for the meeting says:

  • The evidence tells us that a focus on communication and language is likely to have most significant impact on long term outcomes for pupils identified as disadvantaged and for those with special educational needs and disabilities.

    We know that early intervention in communication, language and literacy skills has a positive impact on future academic success and the child’s whole life chances.

Help 1,400 children

Cllr Stephen Fenton. Photograph: York Liberal Democrats
Cllr Bob Webb said: “As a teacher myself, it’s very clear that the word gap is important.

“The level of language required to access the material [is high], it is impossible if you don’t have the words required.”

The social mobility project is set to cost £315,000 over three years and could help 1,400 children aged up to five years old.

But the scheme is currently £205,000 short.

Councillors said they would support the project, with Cllr Stephen Fenton saying: “This is a particularly important issue and one we would all hope would receive the funding that is dearly needed.”