Educational Attainment

Improving educational attainment and building better links between business and education to help shape career choices.  

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The challenge

Educational attainment across Oxfordshire is uneven. Training and educational attainment are a fundamental driver of change for making an economy more inclusive. Improving educational attainment ensures Oxfordshire's residents will have better access to opportunities and businesses can work with a thriving talent pool.

Why is OIEP looking at educational attainment?

Childhood circumstances have an important effect on a person’s future income prospects, analysis from the Office for National Statistics has shown. The analysis suggests that people in the UK who have a low personal education level are nearly five times more likely to be poor in adulthood than those with high personal education levels, once other factors are accounted for. Growing up in a workless household was also identified as an important fact in predicting future poverty.

Background & supporting evidence

Differences in educational attainment emerge early in childhood and develop throughout an individual’s lifetime. Even prior to beginning school, there are differences in children’s cognitive and socio-emotional skills. During the school years, these educational inequalities crystallise; only 8% of young people who were not meeting expectations in reading, writing and maths at the end of primary school went on to achieve pass grades in GCSE English and maths.

The graph below shows that children who are eligible for free school meals (which corresponds to roughly the 15% poorest pupils) in England do significantly worse at every stage of school.

Despite decades of policy attention, there has been virtually no change in the ‘disadvantage gap’ in GCSE attainment over the past 20 years. Whilst GCSE attainment has been increasing over time, 16 year olds who are eligible for free school meals are still around 27% less likely to earn good GCSEs than less disadvantaged peers. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds also make slower progress through secondary school: in the 2019 GCSE cohort, just 40% of disadvantaged children who achieved the expected level at age 11 went on to earn good GCSEs in English and Maths, compared with 60% of their non-disadvantaged peers. The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly worsened overall outcomes as well as widening inequalities. The share of pupils leaving primary school meeting literacy and numeracy benchmarks fell from 65% in 2018-19 to 59% in 2021-22. Children from more disadvantaged backgrounds may have fallen twice as far behind as the average child.

The Public Health Outcomes Framework (PHOF), updated February 2023 with new data, showed that Oxfordshire is worse than the national average on areas identified as priorities by the Educational Attainment Working group regarding school readiness.

Percentage of children with free school meal status achieving a good level of development at the end of Reception in Oxon 43.1% vs  England 49.1%

Percentage of children with free school meal status achieving the expected level in the phonics screening check in Year 1 in Oxon 51.1% vs England 62%       

Percentage of children achieving the expected level in the phonics screening check in Year 1 in Oxon 74.5% vs England 75.5%.

What we're doing

Our educational attainment working group has identified nine challenges to tackle in answer to the question: ‘How might we improve educational attainment in Oxfordshire so that more 16-year-olds are aspirational and level 3 ready?’:

1. How might Oxfordshire develop a mentoring scheme for Young People so that we promote identity, belonging and motivation?

2. How might Oxfordshire better share key information between one educational setting and another to improve identity, belonging and motivation?

3. How might Oxfordshire analyse achievement data more effectively so that we may identify and prioritise support to tackle disadvantage and discrimination

4. How might Oxfordshire extend the use of online/offline learning tools to overcome barriers to educational attainment of GCSE Maths?

5. How might Oxfordshire develop a framework to extend the voluntary workforce to support learning, and improve signposting to wider support?

6. How might Oxfordshire more effectively bring together all agencies to identify much earlier those Young People who are struggling in their educational journey?

7. How might Oxfordshire plan training and awareness to become amore Trauma Informed County?

8. How might Oxfordshire train and develop teachers to have increased awareness of the everyday challenges facing young people so that they can build better and more meaningful relationships that impact the learner experience?

9. How might Oxfordshire grow the parent advocate model, actively listening to more parents and responding to their issues and insights?

Three projects have been identified to focus on for 2023/24: ARCh – Assisted Reading for Children; Parent Power; and Growing Minds. These are established programmes of work that focus on voluntary action and parental advocacy, and require the support of the OIEP to amplify, build or extend their reach across the county. Find out more about them below.

Related actions

Find examples of organisations who are making positive change, or programmes your organisation can get involved in.

OxLEP Skills

Helping young people and businesses in Oxfordshire achieve their full potential. Find out more about their programmes and the support available to you.


OxLEP Apprenticeships Support

Support for apprentices and employers offering apprenticeships in Oxfordshire.


OxGrow Mentoring

OxLEP’s OxGROW virtual mentoring platform introduces experienced business volunteers to individuals


Abingdon & Witney College Apprenticeship Employers

We help small businesses looking to take on their first apprentice and large organisations looking to hire for a range of roles.


Transferring Unused Apprentice Levy

Large employers that pay the apprenticeship levy can choose to transfer up to 25% of their levy funds each year to other businesses, to pay for their apprenticeship training and assessment.


Activate Learning - Apprenticeships

Apprentices are employed and paid by the company they work for. Many spend one or two days a week at college learning extra skills, including English, maths and IT. Some apprenticeships are delivered entirely in the workplace.


Chaired by: Jeremy Long and Bernard Grenville-Jones

Jeremy long

Jeremy Long is Co-Chair of the Oxfordshire Inclusive Economy Partnership(OIEP), former Chair of Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP), and has several non-executive roles, including as Chair of local energy efficiency installation business EnergyMyWay.

bernard Grenville-jones

Bernard joined Activate Learning as a Group Executive Director in 2015. Prior to this he performed non-executive roles for Activate Learning as Governor; Chair of Group Audit and Risk Assurance; Chair of City ofOxford College Advisory Board; and inaugural Chair of Activate Enterprise Limited. Before working full-time in education, Bernard spent over 25years building businesses in financial services consulting and software. He is a Chartered Director and has an honours degree in Business and Management in addition to spending an additional undergraduate year at Warwick University studying Computer Systems Engineering.

Supporting Organisations:

Acer Trust

A multi academy trust working together to create great places to learn and work, based in the Oxfordshire in south central England.

Activate Learning

Activate Learning offers education and training across Oxfordshire, Berkshire, and Surrey.

Community First Oxfordshire

CFO is a community development charity which helps communities and individuals to identify issues that affect them and find their own solutions.

Homestart Oxford

A local community network of trained volunteers and expert support helping families with young children through their challenging times.

Oxford Brookes University

One of the UK's leading modern universities which enjoys an international reputation for teaching excellence and innovation.

Oxford Civic Society

An organisation dedicated to the continuous improvement of Oxford as a wonderful city in which to live, work, study and relax.

Oxford Hub

Working to build a more equal, resilient and connected Oxford.

Oxfordshire County Council

Oxfordshire County Council is the local authority for the county of Oxfordshire.

Oxfordshire Youth

A non-profit organisation created to meet the needs of young people in Oxfordshire.


A UK charity that supports parents & children to learn together by training professionals & working with families.

River Learning Trust

A Multi-Academy Trust responsible for a number of schools and a school centred initial teacher training provider.

Trinity College

Trinity College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England.