An independent report providing an evaluation of the Poverty Proofing the School Day project was launched at a Newcastle University event on Tuesday 12 July. It found that the project was highly effective at removing barriers to learning.
The event – The impact of poverty on education: new evidence on an old problem – supported by SCHOOLS NorthEast, saw speakers from across Newcastle, Manchester and Barcelona give evidence on how much a child’s education is affected by financial constraints.
Liz Todd, Professor of Educational Inclusion at Newcastle University, gave an overview of education policy throughout the last 60 years and picked out key changes that have impacted on poverty / education.
The ‘Poverty Proofing the School Day’ project evaluation was introduced by Sarah Bryson Policy and Research Manager at Children North East. Sarah highlighted the fact that new figures show an increase in the number of children living in poverty, adding that it seems to have gone unnoticed amongst all the Brexit talk. She said that schools are becoming places that reflect inequalities, but they should be places that redress the balance and broaden horizons.
Despite schools and teachers having good intentions, Sarah explained that there are many ways they unintentionally stigmatize children living in poverty (donations for non-uniform days, school trip fees, art competitions using resources from home).
The toolkit Children North East devised outlines simple steps that schools can take to ensure barriers to learning are removed. The initiative is low cost to schools, but high impact, and new evidence also shows improved attendance and attainment. Evaluation shows importance of having external viewpoint and child-focused accounts.
The audience also heard from Irene Cusso-Parcerisas from the Ramon Llull University in Spain, who put things into an international context, providing an overview of her research into the cost of being a child in Barcelona.
Ruth Lupton from the University of Manchester provided an overview of her research into the impact of the bedroom tax on children and schools. She explained that children also pick up on the stress an eviction threat causes to parents and schools have noticed a difference and feel obligation to help. Ruth said that, due to pressure, some schools are coming up with strategies to help poorer families – in some cases even offering loans. However, schools worry that they can’t prove their strategies are improving attainment and always feel the pressure of Ofsted. Ruth concluded by saying that we can’t think about poverty and education without taking the wider social context into account.