Study into Closing the gap in educational attainment

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"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."

Nelson Mandela grew up in a country divided by apartheid. A black man in a country where a white minority ruled, he had a vision for South Africa; to be one nation regardless of race. In 1994 he became the first black president of South Africa - testament, indeed, that barriers, of any kind, should not be reason for or an apology for lack of attainment or achievement of any kind and, that barriers can be overcome.

Body of essay

The aim of this essay is to look at one of the barriers to educational achievement and social inclusion in this country, poverty, and to look at how this issue affects pupil's attainments and what is currently being done in order that pupils, regardless of circumstance can have equality in education.

In order to link poverty with educational achievement and attainment gaps, an appreciation to the terms of poverty and social inclusion will be outlined.

What is poverty?

At this point it is necessary to note that, through my research, it became apparent that there is an unclear and infinite definition about what 'poverty' is and how it should be measured. However, most of the research leads to an agreement that poverty is to be related to in terms of 'typical' living standards within the UK and the following definition is widely accepted:

'Individuals, families and groups in the population can be said to be in poverty when they lack the resources to obtain the types of diet, participate in the activities, and have the living conditions and amenities which are customary, or are at least widely encouraged and approved, in the societies in which they belong.'

P Townsend, Poverty in the United Kingdom: a survey of household resources and standards of living, Penguin, 1979, p31

The most crucial point made above and which is the main cause of poverty is 'resources'; to emphasise more clearly, the main cause of poverty is insufficient income/unemployment which, for adults with children directly impacts on them and their wellbeing. Although the UK has a system of benefits which should protect families with children from poverty, these too are deemed as too low.

In relation to this, it accepted that whilst adults do not choose for themselves the road of poverty, for children of parents living in poverty there is no alternative and they are therefore not just children but could be described as victims of circumstance. Poverty is not just about going without it is about being deprived of equality in areas such as health, housing and respect and, in the case of children, education.

In conjunction with the definition (above) the DCSF (2009) goes on to describe child poverty alone as

'Child poverty means growing up in a household with low income. Research has shown that these children will face a greater risk of having poor health, being exposed to crime and failing to reach their full potential. It means they miss out on school trips, do not have adequate winter clothing and aren't able to enjoy leisure activities with their peers. As a result, their education suffers - making it difficult to get the qualifications they need to move on to sustainable, well-paid jobs. This limits their potential to earn the money needed to support their own families in later life, and so a cycle of poverty is created.'

What is Social inclusion?

As with poverty, in order to link social inclusion with educational achievement and attainment gaps a background and understanding of the issues pertaining to social inclusion need to be outlined.

The term 'social exclusion' is a term generally used to describe what can happen to people who are subject to the most severe problems, and are therefore no longer 'socially included.' As noted above, children do not have a choice of background; they are born into it and therefore find themselves in poverty as a result of their birth circumstance. For a child not to be socially included brings consequences above and beyond economic poverty alone.

It is generally considered that to be 'socially excluded' as a young and impressionable child can have far reaching effects detrimental to both education and health. To be socially excluded is to face exclusion not just economically but socially and academically too.


Social inclusion/exclusion - why does it influence achievement?

Historical development of inclusive policy & guidance

There are a number of laws addressing discrimination in education and supporting inclusive education in the UK.

Arguably, the most important pieces of legislation to be passed in recent years is the Every Child Matters policy which, was published alongside the formal response to the report into the death of Victoria Climbié. Victoria Climbié was a young girl who was horrifically abused and tortured, and eventually killed by her great aunt and the man with whom they lived on 2000. Every Child Matters was a new approach to the well-being of children and young people from birth to age 19.

Inclusive education

'Promoting excellence in teaching and tackling disadvantage demands we personalise teaching and learning and back strong, innovative leadership in schools'

Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families July 2007 - present ECM - Speech to the National Children's Bureau, 23rd July, 2007

The Government's aim is for every child, whatever their background or their circumstances, to have the support they need to:

be healthy

stay safe

enjoy and achieve

make a positive contribution

achieve economic well-being.

along with ….. and the Child Poverty Act obtained Royal Assent on 25 March 2010 and ensures sustained action must be taken to tackle child poverty by this, and future, governments, by the devolved administrations, and by local government and their partners.

Source: DCSF, 2009

Link to policy guidance: - circles of inclusion

Childrens act 1989

(FROM: NVQ 3 for my setting - EDIT)

The principle and practices of Inclusive education means that all students in a school, regardless of their strengths or weaknesses in any area, become part of the school community. They are included in the feeling of belonging among other students, teachers, and support staff. Schools have a duty to educate children with disabilities in general education classrooms. The 'Every Child Matters' policy focussed on Inclusive Education & Equality of Opportunity and placed it high on the agenda focussing on 3 main areas:

Human Rights - Children have a right to learn and play together, they should not be discriminated against and Inclusion is concerned with improving schools for both pupils and staff alike

Equal Opportunities in Education - Children do better in inclusive settings (academically and socially), they should not need to be separated in order to achieve equal academic status and Inclusive education is a more effective use of resources

Social Opportunities - Inclusive education is on part of inclusion in society, children need to be involved with all their peers.

Within my setting:

There are many different ways of achieving and working within the framework of inclusive education (personalised) and an inclusive timetable might look different for each student. For example, I have worked with a child who spoke English as a 2nd language; they had additional support across the curriculum to integrate them into mainstream education. Within my setting there is a child with severe medical problems who is confined to a wheelchair with an oxygen tank. This child needs constant support. The school is able to provide for this child and has either adapted the learning environment (by ensuring the layout of the classroom is suitable for the wheelchair) or timetable to ensure that the wheelchair does not inhibit/restrict learning opportunities. All lessons are either on the ground floor or where necessary, lift access is available to 1st floor classrooms. Inclusion may also be seen as a continuing process of breaking down barriers to educational attainment and participation for all children and young people.

However, the concept of Inclusion is often discussed as though it applies only to Special Educational Needs (SEN), but it has much wider scope. According to Booth and Ainscow (2000) Inclusion in education involves:

Valuing all students and staff equally.

Increasing the participation of students in, and reducing their exclusion from, the cultures, curricula and communities of local schools.

Restructuring the cultures, policies and practices in schools so that they respond to the diversity of students in the locality.

Reducing barriers to learning and participation for all students, not only those with impairments or those who are categorised as 'having special educational needs'.

Learning from attempts to overcome barriers to the access and participation of particular students to make changes for the benefit of students more widely.

Viewing the difference between students as resources to support learning, rather than as problems to be overcome.

Acknowledging the right of students to an education in their locality.

Improving schools for staff as well as for students.

Emphasising the role of schools in building community and developing values, as well as in increasing achievement.

Fostering mutually sustaining relationships between schools and communities.

Poverty and the effects on education

Turning now to the question of how poverty affects the gap in educational attainment between social groups it is necessary to focus on a specific group in order to demonstrate how, in this instance, poverty impacts on educational attainment. For the purpose of this essay, the area of children in secondary education entitled to Free School Meals (FSM's) will be identified and compared against children not entitled to FSM's.

By the sheer fact that a pupil is entitled to FSM indicates that they are from a family whose parents or carers are in receipt of certain benefits and are therefore entitled to apply to their local authority to claim FSM's. Local authorities will use an index known as the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI) in order to determine FSM eligibility. This is by no means a perfect system, as it misses out children from families who do not apply for all the benefit to which they are entitled and in so doing pushes the family further into economic chaos as lunches which may not necessarily need to be paid for now have to become part of the family budget.

Source: Deprivation and Education, The evidence on pupils in England, Foundation Stage to Key Stage 4. Schools Analysis and Research Division, Department for Children, Schools and Families March 2009 p. 8

In the foreword to Removing Barriers to Achievement (DfES, 2004) a set of specific educational goals are expressed. Primarily, they target education as a means to integrate individuals into society and to teach them the skills necessary to participate contribute and achieve their potential. Therefore it can be argued that inclusive education is a basic human right of every child.

Given then that the opportunity for full time education is available for all and, that under international human rights law (and, in particular, Articles 28 and 29 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) which cover the right to education), the UK has an obligation to provide [inclusive] education for all children

Source: UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989): Centre for Studies for Inclusive Education, 2008-1010

If it is the case then, that 'the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively on the basis of equal opportunity' (Article 28), it is interesting to note that on average poorer children score less well on a range of educational measures such as reading tests in early years and GCSE results in secondary education.

Research carried out for the DCSF by the Key Stage 2 & 4: National Indicator Set has shown that where pupils are in receipt of FSM academic attainment is lower at every key stage, however, as the focus group identified is secondary pupils, relevant statistics only are identified:

An attainment gap (measured by pupils entitled to FSM) is measured at each key stage; it begins at key stage 1 and increases at each key stage through education. By the end of key stage 4 research has shown that there was a 29 percentage point gap between FSM and non FSM pupils in English and a 28 percentage point gap in maths. This equates to a non FSM pupil having over three times the odds of achieving an A*‐C grade in these subjects compared to an FSM pupil.

In 2007 Only 21% of FSM pupils achieved 5+ A*‐C GCSEs including English and maths in, compared to 49% of non‐FSM pupils. This figure had narrowed slightly from the statistics (above) available for 2003, whereby a non‐FSM pupil had 3.8 times the odds of achieving 5+A*‐C, but this ratio has fallen over time to 3.1 in 2007.

Source: Schools Analysis and Research Division, Department for Children, Schools and Families March 2009 p. 23

These figures will surely impact on society in years to come, as there will be children with fewer skills required by employers when entering into the workforce, which will ultimately hinder economic growth.

Barriers to education within setting

SEN/equality Look at academic attainment against pupils not on FSM - research (Q drive/data from Stephen)

Does this tie in with statement: are poorer pupils underperforming? What barriers are there to overcome? (if not counter the argument that although in the main, the statement is correct there is evidence to show that due to geographical links to wealth/poverty, this is not always the case even though the criteria for FSM remains the same.

Question: do the poorer children do better academically in a more affluent area than children of the same SEG in a poor area?

Child poverty in the UK - the facts

There are currently 4 million children in the UK living in poverty, as described above. In 1999, the current government pledged to end child poverty. Since that point, 500,000 have been lifted out of poverty; however, 30% of children in Britain today still live in poverty and the UK has one of the worst rates of child poverty in the industrialised world.

How is the government addressing the issues?

Sure start children's centres 20% of deprived areas - ECM

The Government has pledged to halve child poverty by 2010 and eradicate it by 2020.

"This Government is committed to social justice: the opportunity for everyone to make the most of their potential, where people are not held back by where they come from and everyone is supported to succeed. This requires shaping a fairer society by tackling the causes and consequences of poverty - so all children have a good start in life, enjoy a fulfilling childhood and have the capabilities and opportunities to flourish."

HM Govt Child Poverty Unit - Ministerial foreword: Ending Child Poverty - Making it Happen

Add my opinion and views, include quotes:

Article 27 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that every child has the right 'to a standard of living adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development'. The Government is under a duty to provide 'material assistance and support programmes, particularly with regard to nutrition'. No child in the UK should go hungry.

1-2-1 tutor plus pilot programme - targeting pupils on FSM

The child poverty pledge - reaching 2020 ADD DETAILS

what % are living in poverty, how children in poverty can overcome adversity and perform well in schools.

Give brief explanation of question then discuss:

Subject to be covered: I will look at and show:

What do 'barriers to educational achievement' mean? PEE

Link to school poverty, FSM/equal opportunity

Look at links 'research' file on computer

Is social inclusion improving in today's society - PEE present 2 sides of argument.

My role: in relation to social and educational achievement

Culture and ethos of school - impact on inclusion

What have I learnt when analysing 'inclusive practice', (see NVQ3) what do I consider - put forward ideas and link back to question and introduction

There is evidence to suggest that with government intervention there is no excuse for poverty as being a barrier to achievement or attainment, research carried out by Jason Strelitz, for Save the Children and a member of End Child Poverty has shown that successful intervention by national government can eradicate poverty as a key barrier to educational attainment. In London, for example where, since 2006, £40million per year has been invested in education, children from the poorest backgrounds, and in particular those on FSM, increased their GCSE attainment level to those above the national average for the same group nationwide. In 2008 in the London borough of Kensington & Chelsea the percentage of children on FSM and achieving 5 A* - C passes at GCSE  was 59.0% however, at the bottom of that same league table, in Nottinghamshire, only 22% of children on free school meals achieved five good GCSEs.

** Therefore money spent on education in London shows that poverty need not be a barrier to education however it should be remembered that the children are still actually in poverty but that the opportunity of a good education will be the key to their future and the opportunity for them to move on into higher education (remember aim higher programme) or employment giving them the prospect of breaking away from poverty.


Perhaps then, it is not poverty alone that is the barrier to educational achievement. Poverty is circumstance. This and subsequent governments can, and should invest in education in order to give our children the opportunity they need to break away from poverty and to close the gap in educational achievement and social inclusion. While children are denied their basic human right of an education - equal for all, no matter their current circumstance, they will remain in poverty.

As Nelson Mandela broke through his barrier and proved that race need not hold back achievement, this country too can break down barriers; children from all backgrounds can achieve - poverty does not and should not be a barrier to attainment.