Fears have been raised of “disadvantage gap” as 80 per cent of vulnerable Hertfordshire children did not meet writing, reading and maths standards last year.

Department for Education figures show that just 20 per cent of the 236 key stage two children "in need" in Hertfordshire met the required standard in 2022-23, compared to 61 per cent of all pupils.

It comes as pupils who were in care, being looked-after, or with a child protection order performed worse compared to all pupils across England.

School leaders’ union the NAHT said the disadvantage gap will continue to have a harmful impact on vulnerable children’s life chances unless the Government invests in services supporting schools.

Across England, 30 per cent of vulnerable children were up to the requirements for reading, writing and maths compared to an average of 60 per cent of all children.

The figures for all pupils include the number of children considered in need as well.

While the gap remained the same since 2018-19, both groups had a worse performance. Before the pandemic, 35 per cent of children in need made the grade, while 65 per cent of all pupils did.

Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Pepe Di’Iasio said: “Children in social care have often gone through hell and unfortunately this trauma can understandably impact on their educational progress as well as their social and emotional wellbeing.

“Schools work hard to support them in all respects, but they are having to do so without enough funding, staff or specialist support. In addition, social care departments are also under huge pressure.”

The figures also show 35 per cent of key stage two children "in need" in Hertfordshire reached the expected standard for reading, 29 per cent for writing and 30 per cent for maths.

For all pupils, 76 per cent met the reading standard, with 71 per cent in writing and 75 per cent in maths.

Headteachers' union NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman said: “The Government clearly hasn’t done nearly enough to support children’s recovery from the pandemic, and it is depressing that this has further harmed those children who need help the most.

He said while teachers do their best to support pupils, they are not equipped to tackle the root causes of poverty.

“The disadvantage gap will continue to have a pernicious impact on children’s life chances, especially the most vulnerable, and it will only begin to close when the Government properly invests in those services that support schools’ social care, family support and mental health services,” Mr Whiteman added.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We want to make sure that children from all over the country, regardless of background, have the same opportunities to succeed and attain the highest levels.

“We have made almost £5 billion available since 2020 for education recovery initiatives, including high quality tutoring for the children who need the most support. 

“We are also supporting disadvantaged pupils through the pupil premium, which is rising to almost £2.9 billion in 2024-25, the highest in cash terms since this funding began.”