United Kingdom

Concentrations of poor children

Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • Half of all the children in primary and nursery schools in England who are eligible for free school meals are concentrated in a fifth of the schools.  This proportion is similar to that of a decade ago.
  • Because of this concentration, the perception of poor children in primary and nursery schools is that there are many more poor children than there actually are.  For example, those eligible for free school meals have, on average, 29% of the pupils in their school eligible for free school meals whereas those not eligible for free school meals have, on average, 16% of the pupils in their school eligible for free school meals.
  • Two-thirds of all maintained primary and nursery schools in inner London have a high proportion of their children eligible for free school meals.  This is much higher than in any other region.
  • See the ScotlandWales and Northern Ireland indicators for the equivalent analysis for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Why this indicator was originally chosen

To the extent that poor children are concentrated in particular schools, this implies that poor and richer children can grow up with very different perspectives, with poor children mixing largely with other poor children and richer children mixing with comparatively fewer poor children.

Definitions and data sources

This indicator tries to measure the extent to which poor children are concentrated in particular schools.

The first graph shows the proportion of children eligible for free school meals who are in the fifth of local education authority primary and nursery schools with the highest concentrations of such children.  Note that schools with zero recorded children eligible for free school meals are included in the calculations although it may be that in some cases these are null returns rather than true zeros.

For the latest year, for both primary & nursery and secondary schools, the second graph shows that:

  • For children in primary and nursery schools eligible for free school meals, an average of 28% of the children in the school are eligible for free school meals.
  • For children in primary and nursery schools not eligible for free school meals, an average of 15% of the children in the school are eligible for free school meals.
  • For children in secondary schools eligible for free school meals, an average of 23% of the children in the school are eligible for free school meals.
  • For children in secondary schools not eligible for free school meals, an average of 12% of the children in the school are eligible for free school meals.

The third graph shows, for the latest year, how the proportion of local education authority primary and nursery schools which are in the fifth of schools with the highest proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals varies by region.

Pupils entitled to free school meals are those within families who receive Income Support (IS) or Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (IBJSA).  Those within families who receive support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 may also be entitled.  Children who receive IS or IBJSA in their own right are also entitled to receive free school meals.  Also entitled are children whose parents or carers receive Child Tax Credit, do not receive Working Tax Credit and have an annual income (as assessed by the HM Revenue & Customs) of below £14,155 (in 2006).

The data source for all the graphs is calculations based on data from the Department for Education (the data is not publicly available).  The data relates to England.

Overall adequacy of the indicator: limited.  While the underlying data is sound, its relationship to other aspects of poverty and social exclusion is not immediately clear.

Relevant 2007 Public Service Agreements

None directly relevant.

The numbers

Graph 1

1997 51%
1998 51%
1999 52%
2000 53%
2001 54%
2002 52%
2003 54%
2004 54%
2005 55%
2006 55%
200755%
200855%
200953%
201051%
201150%

Graph 2

Group of pupilsPrimary and nursery schools Secondary schools
For all pupils 18% 14%
For pupils eligible for free school meals 29% 23%
For pupils not eligible for free school meals 16% 12%
For pupils in the fifth of schools with the highest concentrations of free school meals 39% 33%

Graph 3

East 9%
East Midlands 13%
Inner London 65%
Outer London 25%
North East 31%
North West 28%
South East 9%
South West 11%
West Midlands 27%
Yorkshire and The Humber 20%