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New bid to close achievement gap

Schools will be able to compare their performance with other similar schools across the country as part of a new attempt to close the achievement gap between rich and poor pupils.

A database that groups secondary schools into "families" of 50 based on factors such as prior attainment, percentage of children on free school meals and the number speaking English as an additional language, has been launched by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), which said that the tool can be used by individual schools to learn from others that are like them.

National figures indicate that the performance gap at age 11 and GCSE level between youngsters on free school meals - a key measure of poverty - and their wealthier classmates has narrowed slightly in recent years.

But the EEF suggested that if progress continues at the same rate, it will still take over 20 years to close the gap entirely.

Schools will be able to use the database to compare the performance of their own pupils on a range of measures with those in other similar schools.

This will allow them to understand their own achievement gap better and learn how to narrow it from the best performing schools in their "family", the EEF said.

For example, a typical "family" of schools would have a difference of 12 "best eight" GCSE points between the best and worse performing schools in the group - this means that the average pupil in the top school would gain around 1.5 grades higher in each of their best eight GCSE subjects compared to the average pupils in the bottom school.

EEF chief executive Kevan Collins said: "Our new database will allow schools to see where they stand in narrowing the attainment gap amongst their most similar counterparts. This will give school leaders a clear indication of their own strengths and weaknesses as well as creating a valuable opportunity for collaboration between schools.

"We hope the families of schools resource will lead to the best performing schools sharing their knowledge with those doing less well, and schools near the bottom of their family being able to identify which similar institutions they can learn from."

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