The gap between the best and worst achievers in UK school tests is bigger than in most other developed countries.
This gap is directly linked to both the social class of their families and material success later in life.
Pre-school tests show children brought up in poor families already achieve less well than their richer peers and school appears to increase the gap.
By GCSEs the poorest fifth are half as likely to achieve five or more A* to C grades at GCSE than the advantaged children. Good GCSEs lead to good A-levels, good universities, good degrees and more money.
Narrowing the gap has been the aim of successive governments. There have been endless initiatives, but the goal of social mobility that should follow the success of these continues to elude us. Is the focus on narrowing the gap rather than everyone getting more from education in fact unhelpful?
In the Lake District over half term my husband and son outstripped me on every climb. From time to time, they waited for me to catch up.
When I arrived, they set off again and I had to decide whether to stop, enjoy the view and allow them to get way ahead of me or to carry on plodding behind until quite quickly the gap widens again.
Perhaps I should walk with other people who go at my pace. We might have different walks – gentler climbs that afford delightful panoramic vistas and generate just as exhilarating a sense of achievement for some people as getting up Scarfell.
Perhaps the fact they are not in the guide books and no one is knighted for having been the first or fastest up them, doesn’t really matter if you see the lakes glittering through the clouds.
Because isn’t that the point? The proliferation of initiatives to narrow the educational gap has resulted in a total focus on examination results.
The way these work mean that we will never have everyone achieving A*s. What we need is an education system that shows all children the things that can give lasting and sustainable joy to their lives.
* Sarah Evans, Principal, King Edward VI High School for Girls