Poverty leads to unequal access to education, report says

By Dan Parton

| 03 September 2019

The impact that poverty can have on children's ability to learn and succeed at school has been revealed by latest research.

Joseph Howes: "Poverty means unequal access to education."

A study by charity Buttle UK shows that children living in poverty can face major disadvantages such as missing out on social interaction and the opportunity of learning soft skills through after-school classes and other activities.

The report, The Experiences of Education for Children and Young People in Poverty in the UK in 2019, also reveals how parents are struggling to meet children's basic needs.

A nationwide sample of 1,200 support workers found that 88 per cent regularly - at least once a week - see parents unable to afford food, fuel and household items, and 77 per cent see children having to be provided with a free breakfast or dinner at school.

In addition, 79 per cent of frontline workers report regularly seeing parents struggling to afford the costs associated with school. At its most extreme, not being able to afford school uniform or the correct equipment results in children being unable to take certain subjects, or even attend some schools at all.

Two-thirds of frontline workers also said that they regularly see children unable to access after-school clubs due to the cost. This means they have limited opportunity to learn beyond core academic subjects or develop their social skills.

Most respondents also reported seeing children lacking basics such as an appropriate bed of their own (55 per cent) and parents not being able to afford the cost of cleaning children's clothes and bedding (66 per cent).

Another common theme reported was that families often couldn't afford heating or hot water.

Lack of access to the internet was raised by 61 per cent, which means children can have difficulty completing homework and parents are unable to communicate with schools or access support to help a child's studies.

Joseph Howes, Buttle UK's chief executive, said that he was "shocked and saddened" to learn some of these findings.

"This report shows the scale of the task facing us and other charities in this area of work," he said.  

"The findings provide a thermometer of what life is like for children growing up in poverty in the UK today. What this report is showing specifically is that poverty means an unequal access to the education that the state provides.

"Education is crucial in breaking the inter-generational cycle of poverty; we therefore want all political parties to form child-centric strategies that give all children the chance of a successful education."

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