“The widening of the disadvantage gap is desperately sad but not unexpected. We and others repeatedly warned that the impact of the pandemic was uneven and that disadvantaged children were falling further behind. But ministers failed to respond with an education recovery plan on the scale that was necessary to meet this challenge.
“Schools and colleges have done everything possible to support these children before, during and after the pandemic. But they have had to do so despite inadequate education funding, teacher shortages and a cost-of-living crisis over the past two years which has hit disadvantaged pupils the hardest once again.
“The government had an opportunity in the recent autumn statement to put at least some of this right by making a commitment to greater investment in education and the education workforce. But it barely mentioned schools and colleges at all and has left them facing worsening financial pressures and a deepening recruitment and retention crisis.
“Ministers must act on the EPI’s findings and look seriously at the specific recommendations in this report. In particular, the recommendation for a student premium in 16-19 education to support disadvantaged young people is vital in improving their prospects for higher education, apprenticeships and employment.”