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Poor children miss out at school

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Being in poverty restricts the way children access education says report

Poverty is holding young people back from learning and is affecting their life chances, a new report has found.

The costs of school – from textbooks and classroom materials, to trips and uniforms – are proving to be a significant financial burden for families on low incomes according to the joint report commissioned by Save the Children and Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People.

Almost 1,000 secondary school pupils were asked their views on poverty and school – the first time young people’s views on the issue have been canvased.

Some 88% of those surveyed agreed education was essential to their future opportunities but poverty affected the way they learned.

Scotland’s education system needs to ensure the poorest pupils aren’t penalised and, instead, are given every opportunity to fulfil their potential – Neil Mathers

The report states that the link between poverty and children’s achievement in school is the most pressing issue facing Scottish education today.

Neil Mathers, Save the Children’s head of Scotland, said there was clear concern for pupils living on a low income and called for more support and a level playing field for all young people.

“Scotland’s education system needs to ensure the poorest pupils aren’t penalised and, instead, are given every opportunity to fulfil their potential,” he said. .

“If we don’t take further steps to reduce the impact of poverty on children’s learning, we will continue to fail some of our most vulnerable young people and limit their opportunities.

“We want policy-makers and school leaders to listen and act.”

Children on low incomes felt left out and different, risked being bullied and stigmatised for being poor and felt they are unfairly penalised through classroom practices, for example through charges for replacement materials like pencils and paper.

The report also found some schools ran a sanction system where merits were lost if pupils didn’t have the right equipment or uniform could result in a punishment such as being excluded from school trips.

The stresses and pressures on families living in poverty was raised as another barrier to learning – from parents working long shifts, to an expectation that pupils have a personal computer and quiet space to do their homework, children in low income homes face more disadvantages.

Tam Baillie, Scotland’s Children’s Commissioner, said there was very little research on how children felt about poverty and growing up in families living on low incomes.

"This report aims to plug that gap by setting out the views and voices of young people on how poverty can impact on education, both in and out of school,” he said.

“It raises some important issues for policy-makers and politicians to consider how they can better support those children and young people who feel the impact of poverty on their education and daily lives.”



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