Children describe impact of poverty on their education and wellbeing

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Scottish pupils from low-income families have described how costs from textbooks to uniforms and school trips affect their academic performance and wellbeing.

Many children’s ability to participate fully in school life is closely linked to the financial pressures facing their families, according to a joint report by Save the Children and Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People.

Learning Lessons: Young People’s Views on Poverty and Education in Scotland, which drew on the views of about 1,000 secondary pupils, also shows how children and young people can be stigmatised or bullied for being poor.

An overwhelming majority, 88 per cent, of the pupils who took part in the survey said that education was an essential factor in success in life, and that a lack of money influenced their decision-making.

Neil Mathers, Save the Children’s head of Scotland, said: “Scotland’s education system needs to ensure the poorest pupils aren’t penalised and, instead, are given every opportunity to fulfil their potential. We want policy-makers and school leaders to listen and act.”

The report launch last week in Edinburgh was attended by education minister Mike Russell.

Lack of the right equipment or school uniform can result in pupils being picked on by peers, the survey showed. As well as basic costs for stationery, calculators and materials for subjects such as technology and music, families face large extra expenses for trips and uniforms.

Tam Baillie, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, said: “This report 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.”

A Scottish government spokesperson said: “Learning should be about the ability to learn, not the ability to pay, but all of the evidence shows that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to experience worse outcomes in education than those who enjoy greater advantages.”

There would be a statutory duty on Scottish ministers to take account children’s views when developing policies, she said.

“(The attainment gap) is completely unacceptable and the Scottish government is committed to narrowing it and reducing child poverty.”


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