Teachers should be offered subsidised housing to encourage them to work in poor areas in a £12 million pilot scheme, a report headed by Nick Clegg has recommended.
The cross-party commission into education inequality, also overseen by Labour MP Stephen Kinnock and Tory Suella Fernandes, found that where a child is born has become an increasingly powerful predictor of school performance over the past 30 years.
While London and the North West have a disproportionately high number of high-performing pupils at age 11, children in the West Midlands and Yorkshire and Humberside tend to score much lower in tests.
A 16-year-old in the East or West Midlands is also 5% less likely (55%) to achieve five good GCSEs compared to one of their peers in London (60%).
“Where someone comes from can still matter much more in determining where they end up in life than their talents or efforts,” the research reads.
“This is the reality that should be weighed against political discussions of Britain as a meritocracy.”
It continues: “In addressing these problems, structural reform – such as the introduction of grammar schools – might seem appealing.
“However, the evidence for the effects of structural reform in reducing inequality is disputed and limited, and any pursuit of greater selection in state-funded schools would be likely to provoke political debate that distracts from more useful solutions.”
Instead, authors of the Social Market Commission report have called on the government to address the issue by tackling disparities in teaching quality.
Research found that pupils in poor areas are much less likely to be taught by a teacher with a degree in the relevant subject, while just 7% of teachers in these schools have more than 10 years of experience.
Secondary school teachers working in deprived areas are also 70% more likely to leave than those in wealthy neighbourhoods.
Schools in poor areas should therefore have access to funds to subsidise housing as an incentive for teachers to work there, the report suggests.
Speaking on Sky News about the recommended £12 million pilot scheme, Clegg said: “Having spoken to teachers, what we are discovering is that it’s not actually a question about the pay differentials - teachers who teach in more disadvantaged areas tend to get paid a bit more anyway compared to teachers with same qualifications and same experience in less disadvantaged areas.”
He continued: “But helping with the costs of moving from one part of the country, finding a place to live, resettle your family, was something that was felt by some of the teachers we spoke to to be an important new idea which might encourage them to take that leap.”
MPs also suggested that aspiring headteachers should have to have experience in disadvantaged schools before becoming qualified for the role to stop the departure of highly-qualified teachers from these areas.
The report added that schools should be compelled by the government to publish data about turnover rates for newly-qualified teachers to “shine a light on retention and development problems”.