PUPILS who qualify for free school meals in Wigan are two and a half times less likely to go on to higher education, new figures reveal.
The statistics from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, show that 84 per cent of 15-year-olds who were eligible for free school meals in Wigan had not entered higher education by the age of 19 in 2012/13.
Comparatively, 62 per cent of pupils who were not eligible did go on to higher education by the time they were 19.
Likewise pupils who did not claim free school dinners were four times more likely to get into the more selective universities. Only two per cent of pupils who claimed free school went on to study at a “selective” university, while 13 per cent enrolled in other forms of higher education.
James Winterbottom, Wigan Council’s director of children’s services, said: “We want all children and young people in Wigan borough to have the best possible start in life and a lot of work goes into driving up standards and making sure no child is left behind.
“Currently 36 per cent of children in the borough start school without having reached the expected levels of development and in some of our communities it can be as high as 80 per cent.
“It is our priority, through The Deal for the Future, to improve the situation significantly because children who reach this expected level of development go on to live healthier lives, achieve greater academic success and have a better chance of a prosperous life.
“Our education system is one of the best in the country with 82 per cent of our schools judged to be good or outstanding by Ofsted; 93 per cent of our primary schools are good or outstanding – the 3rd best performing area in the North West.
“We will continue to work closely with our schools and further education providers and all partners to ensure every young person is equipped with the right skills to enter either higher education, training or employment and that they have the opportunities and support they need to succeed.”