A team from Bracknell Forest Council met Ofsted inspectors to tackle the achievement gap between rich and poor pupils.

The national trend was discussed at the Ofsted South East Leadership Conference, earlier this month.

Representatives from the council, including Bob Welch, chief adviser for learning and achievement, met staff from the education watchdog to work out a plan for the next 12 months, in an attempt to improve the academic performance of youngsters receiving free school meals.

Bracknell Forest had the seventh largest gap in the country when it came to Year Six pupils taking Key Stage Two reading, writing and mathematics exams last summer.

There was a difference of 28% between the percentage of children eligible for free school meals who gained the benchmark Level Four at all three subjects, compared to the percentage achieved by other youngsters.

Wokingham borough had the worst gap in the country – 39%.

The difference in achievement between pupils receiving free school meals and those who are not, is most acute in the South East and continues into secondary school.

Last year, there was a 32% achievement gap in the number of pupils who got five GCSEs A*-C, including maths and English, in Bracknell Forest. This is well above the average for England – 26.7%.

Cllr Dr Gareth Barnard, executive member for children, young people and learning at Bracknell Forest Council, said: “We take this very seriously; we’re not going to be complacent. It’s good to have conferences like this where we share practices, bringing in ideas from outside Bracknell and beyond is good to see what works best.

“It is a difficult issue, and what we have to do is focus on the achievement of all pupils, but we will expect to see it narrow.” The issue was also discussed by Bracknell Forest Council’s executive last week where the local authority adopted the ‘Narrowing the Gap’ strategy.

It sets out key targets and 15 steps in an annual action plan, and also focuses on those eligible for the pupil premium – extra funding for disadvantaged students.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, HM chief inspector from Ofsted, said: “I would like to write about the impact schools in the South East have had in improving outcomes for disadvantaged young people.

“That’s the dream. Today the challenge is to commit to a plan to make that ambition a reality.”