Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Poverty trap is taking toll on pupils

Poorer kids less likely to do well

Ulster pupils living in poverty are more likely to have negative experiences at school than children in more wealthy parts of Northern Ireland, research has found.

Ulster pupils living in poverty are more likely to have negative experiences at school than children in more wealthy parts of Northern Ireland, research has found.

The study, which was part of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation's Education and Poverty Programme, found that most children's experience of school is determined by the level of disadvantage they face.

Among some of the most startling findings of the University of Ulster research is the fact that boys who come from disadvantaged backgrounds start to disengage from school from as young as nine or 10

The report also concluded that poorer children were very aware of all the costs associated with school and of the difficulties some parents face in finding just 50p or £1 for school events.

Co-funded by Save the Children, the research involved over 200 children between the ages of five and 11 in some of the poorest and most advantaged primary schools across Northern Ireland.

According to the research, poorer children accept from a young age that their social position will be reflected in their experience of school. Report author Goretti Horgan, from the University of Ulster's School of Policy Studies at Magee, said: "Poorer children accept their social position will be reflected in their experience of school and they are not going to get the same quality of schooling, or of outcomes, as better off children."

Poorer families also struggled to meet the costs associated with schooling.

"Children and parents identified the main costs of school as uniforms including shoes, lunches and school trips.

"Children in the disadvantaged schools were very aware of all the costs associated with school and of the difficulties some parents face in finding as little as 50p or a pound for school events," Ms Horgan said.

Donald Hirsch from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation added that the range of research studies carried out under the JRF Education and Poverty Programme have shown that social background influences the way children feel about school from an early age.

He explained: "At primary school, children in poverty are more likely to have negative experiences and feel got at by teachers.

"This doesn't necessarily mean teachers are prejudiced, but that low-income children find themselves in schools where the pressures are greater, and this reinforces prior disadvantages."

Alex Tennant, head of policy and research at Save the Children, said the research indicates there are still major inequalities in education for our children.

The research project has also produced a good practice guide which aims to raise awareness among teachers of the impact of poverty on children's school experience and help schools to improve educational experiences and outcomes for children growing up in poverty.

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