Government rejects child poverty commission targets

Derren Hayes
Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Government efforts to tackle child poverty have been branded a "fairytale" after it rejected calls to introduce a range of new targets aimed at improving social mobility.

A report published on Tuesday outlines government measures to tackle child poverty and improve social mobility in response to recommendations put forward in the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission’s second annual State of the Nation report last month.

That report called on the government to develop more ambitious targets on closing the attainment gap for disadvantaged children, improving access to youth training and employment opportunities, and developing better pay and benefits if it wants to meet its target to end absolute child poverty by 2020.

The commission recommended improvements to teaching in early years settings and schools to tackle the attainment gap for disadvantaged children.

It said the early years teacher qualification should become as attractive as the qualified teacher status, with enhanced pay and conditions. But in its response, the government said it was not able to set teacher pay expectations for early years providers, “nor can we prescribe how they should value and reward the specialist skills of early years teachers”.

A call to draft the best teachers on enhanced salaries into the worst-performing schools, with the aim of halving the attainment gap by 2020, was also ignored.

While the government said it had developed policies to help disadvantaged young people go to top universities, it rejected the commission’s call to set a target for 5,000 more pupils to attend them by 2020.

It said the best way to ensure pay levels for young people increased was to focus on growing the economy. While it backed the commission’s criticism of companies that fail to pay interns, it said that to make the practice illegal would damage social mobility by reducing the number of placements.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “We do not recognise the fairytale version of tackling child poverty that this government is peddling.
“The report clearly stated that the government will miss its target of eradicating child poverty by 2020, throwing millions of children back into Dickensian living standards. The reality of this failure is to be found in queues for food banks, teachers bringing breakfast into school for hungry children and 4.7 million children projected to be living in poverty by 2020, according to the Child Poverty Action Group.”

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