DISADVANTAGED secondary school kids in Barnsley fell even further behind their classmates during the pandemic, shocking new figures have revealed.

The Ofsted inspection handbook defines disadvantaged pupils as those with special educational needs and disabilities who meet the definition of ‘children in need of help and protection’.

Kids who are socially or culturally deprived also fall under the same bracket.

Figures from the Department for Education figures show just 24.8 per cent of disadvantaged children in Barnsley achieved grade five or above in GCSE English and maths last year - the equivalent to a high C or a low B in the old grading system.

In comparison, more than half of all other pupils achieved the needed grade five.

It meant that the attainment gap was 29.3 percentage points last year - up from 22.1 in 2018-19, the last academic year uninterrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Nationally, 29.5 per cent of disadvantaged children reached grade five or above in English and maths, whereas 56.8 per cent of all other children achieved the grades.

It means the attainment gap rose from 25.2 percentage points in 2018-19 to 27.3 in 2021-22.

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And the figures also show that across England, the disadvantage gap index - a broader measure of child performance at school - reached its largest point in a decade in 2021-22 after widening throughout the pandemic.

Education charity SHINE said the link between deprivation and children’s school performance existed before Covid-19 - but that the pandemic ‘amplified existing inequalities’.

Dr Helen Rafferty, senior programme manager at the charity, said: “We know that children from poorer backgrounds lost out on more learning than their wealthier peers, are more likely to experience challenges with attendance, and are most in need of stability and support from schools and teachers.

“Now, without intervention, the cost-of-living crisis and mooted cuts to already-stretched school budgets risk widening the gap even further.”

She warned that school leaders now face ‘impossible decisions’ due to budget cuts - which will see schools in Barnsley lose £3.3m - and that targeted support is now needed to close the gap.

“Additional funding should be targeted at children and schools who experience persistent long-term disadvantage, whom we know are at the greatest risk of falling behind,” she added.

Other statistics show that the gap between the average grade of disadvantaged kids compared to their peers across eight subjects also widened.

In Barnsley, non-disadvantaged children outperformed others by 15.3 points last year - up from 12.5 before the pandemic.

“Educational equality should be a top priority for any government,” Dr Rafferty added.

The Department for Education said it is rolling out a £5bn education recovery programme following the pandemic.

A spokesperson added that targeted investment for areas in need is also being provided to improve standards for pupils across the country.