Thursday, 27 June 2013

Poverty Proofing the School Day

Last week Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshore said that even outstanding schools are failing poorer children, "These poor, unseen children ... are labelled, buried in lower sets, consigned as often as not to indifferent teaching. They coast through education until – at the earliest opportunity – they sever their ties with it."

In our research with poorer children and young people they told us they feel more disadvantaged in school than anywhere else. They told us about all sorts of ways in which schools unwittingly make it obvious which students are poor and harder for them to fully engage in and benefit from education.

"Look, there’s Hope,
She’s got holes in her shoes,
Pays nothing for dinners
And holds up the queues,
Going home with a face full of sorrow,
But don’t worry Hope,
We’ll get you tomorrow."

For the last year we have been working with children, young people, teachers, parents and Governors in four schools (two primary and two secondary in both urban and rural areas) and the North East Child Poverty Commission with funding from the Voluntary Organisations Network North East (VONNE) Policy and Representation Partnership to develop and pilot an audit for schools to 'Poverty Proof the School Day.'

Groups of children and young people in all four schools explored what poverty is in a UK context - did they know who experiences poverty in their school? And if so how do they know?  They walked and talked the school day from start to finish unpicking all the policies and practices within their schools. They looked at what questions to ask of schools to Poverty Proof their Day. The audit was developed from this process, the real lived experiences of children and young people themselves. The children and young people tested and refined their questions by auditing one another’s schools.

Over the next few weeks we are launching the audit to encourage schools to take it up in the new school year starting September 2013. Schools can register online at:

Ofsted wants to improve teaching for poorer children and threatens to reinspect schools previously judged outstanding if they are not doing well by their poorest children.

The Education Endowment Foundation Teaching and Learning Toolkit is based on rigorous academic research and recommends the cost effective teaching methods to raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils.

Children North East thinks both these approaches are important but believes our 'Poverty Proofing the School Day' audit looks at another vital dimension - the social experience of school life from the point of view of the children and young people who are the 'customers' of the education system.

We want to reduce the stigma and discrimination children and young people experiencing poverty face in schools. We want to 'level the playing field' in school so every pupil gets the same chance to benefit from education no matter what their background. 'Poverty Proofing the School Day' will enable schools to identify and remove barriers to learning and support them to reduce their attainment gap.

“I know I’m different, I don’t have the same things everyone else does,
but that doesn’t mean I’m a bad person.”

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