How does poverty affect children's education?
Exploring the effect of poverty on children's education.
This programme of work explores how poverty affects children's education, and the role of education as a route out of poverty.
The first phase of the programme looked broadly at how poverty and children's education interact. It aimed to challenge some of the assumptions of the UK educational system and uncover why it continues to fail low-income families and other disadvantaged groups. A second strand focused specifically on the formation and impact of children's attitudes and aspirations towards education.
Following on from this, two projects assessed how far policy and practice solutions that address attitudes, aspirations and behaviour can reduce the educational attainment gap between richer and poorer children.
To read more about the programme, download our Investigations Summary (PDF, 105KB)
Children growing up in poverty and disadvantage are less likely to do well at school. This feeds into disadvantage in later life and in turn affects their children.
Our research so far shows that:
Only by understanding the varied factors influencing social differences in education will it be possible to design effective responses in policy and practice.
A key message of the evidence is that equality of educational opportunity cannot rely solely on better delivery of the school curriculum for disadvantaged groups, but must address multiple aspects of disadvantaged children's lives.
Two major projects examined the formation and role of attitudes and aspirations towards education:
The first helped us understand more about how important attitudes and behaviour are in the educational attainment of poorer children. We are now looking in more detail at the implications of this research for policy and practice, in school and children's services and more widely. We also asked for people's views on these findings: whether they have had any personal experience of the issues raised; if they know of any actions being taken to address the issues; and what other factors they believe are important.
A second project aimed to understand how attributes of the individual, family, place and school in deprived urban areas come together to shape aspirations in the critical early years of adolescence. In particular, it explored how parental circumstances and attitudes, the school as an institution and the opportunities available within neighbourhoods influence children's identities and aspirations towards education and employment.
Two final reports in this programme explored what part policies and practice that address attitudes and aspirations could play in closing the attainment gap. They set out the evidence on whether these links are causal and on whether interventions addressing attitudes and aspirations have a good chance of reducing the attainment gap between richer and poorer children.
A Roundup of the key findings from the programme of work has also been published.
In early 2013, three thinkpieces will examine education and poverty in England, Wales and Scotland.