CHILDREN getting free school dinners in Oxfordshire are not achieving the same grades as equivalent pupils elsewhere in the country.
A new report shows 70 per cent of county youngsters whose parents receive benefits are leaving school without five GCSEs at A* to C, including English and maths, compared to 62 per cent nationally.
The Oxfordshire County Council statistics also show that at Key Stage Two level last year, 58 per cent of pupils receiving free meals scored the expected Level Four or more in reading, writing and maths tests – compared to 80 per cent of their fellow students.
The figures come from a report to the council’s education scrutiny committee which will meet tomorrow.
Written by Frances Craven, deputy director for education and early intervention, it says the achievements of GSCE-level pupils getting free dinners last year ranked them 125th out of 152 authorities nationwide.
She also said the achievement gap between the two groups had been decreasing since 2010, but had widened again last year, and that more pupils were now receiving free meals – with 450 getting them in 2009 compared to 540 last year.
Jem Todd, a team leader at youth project Thrive Barton, said he thought more could be done to help such children.
He said: “I would love to see the county council doing more things that aren’t academic for young people, things which are more skills based.
“We hold a Young Achievers Dinner where they cook for 120 guests and plan everything for the event.
“There is definitely more which can be done in Oxford and I would love to see schools linking in with partner organisations to work together for the benefit of young people.”
The report also says children with free school dinners are achieving similar rates of five or more GCSEs, but were below the national average when it came to grades between A* and C, adding: “This indicates that it is achieving the higher grades which is the potential challenge for this group of children.”
County council cabinet member for education Melinda Tilley said everyone needed to take more responsibility for the issue.
She added: “It is a real worry that these children are not achieving.
“There is no logical reason why those on free school meals shouldn’t achieve these grades. We need to be doing more.
“I think it is something everybody needs to take more responsibility for.”
Pupils qualify for free school dinners if their parents are receiving certain benefits including Jobseekers Allowance, and help under the Immigration and Asylum Act.
The report also showed Asian pupils in Oxfordshire were performing below the national average at GCSE level.
The figures show 51 per cent of Asian pupils in the county achieved at least five GCSEs at A* to C, including English and maths, compared to 65 per cent nationally.
It also shows that 56.1 per cent of boys in the county acheived at least five GCSEs at A* to C, including English and maths, compared to 65.2 per cent of girls.
Nationally, 55.9 per cent of boys achieve those grades compared to 65.9 per cent of girls.
There are, in total, 88,000 children at all primary and secondary schools in the county.