How Poverty Affects School Readiness in Scotland

The Cost-of-Living Crisis

Poverty is not a new problem in Scotland, but it has become more severe and widespread due to the cost-of-living crisis that has hit many families this year. According to SallyAnn Kelly, the chief executive of the children’s charity Aberlour, more and more families are struggling to afford basic necessities such as food, clothing, heating and transport. This has a direct impact on the well-being and education of their children, who often come to school hungry, cold, tired and unprepared.

Kelly said that the charity has seen a 50 per cent increase in demand for its services since the start of the pandemic, and that many of the families they support are working but still unable to make ends meet. She added that the situation is likely to get worse as the winter approaches and the energy prices rise.

The Poverty-Related Attainment Gap

The link between poverty and educational outcomes is well-established and widely recognised. The Scottish Government has committed to reducing the poverty-related attainment gap by 50 per cent by 2030, and has allocated £1 billion over five years to the Scottish Attainment Challenge, a programme that aims to improve the learning and achievement of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent school closures have exacerbated the existing inequalities and disrupted the progress made so far. Research suggests that children and young people learn less well when not in regular classes, and that the achievement gap widens at triple the rate in remote schooling. Moreover, the pandemic itself has pushed more children into poverty and food insecurity.

How Poverty Affects School Readiness in Scotland

To address the impact of the interrupted learning, the Scottish Government has announced a £20 million fund to provide additional support for pupils who need it most, such as those affected by poverty, younger children, those experiencing transitions, those with additional support needs and those with mental health and social difficulties. The fund will be used to provide targeted interventions such as tutoring, mentoring, counselling and extra-curricular activities.

The Role of Teachers and Frontline Staff

Teachers and frontline staff play a crucial role in supporting pupils from low-income families and helping them overcome the barriers to learning. They are often the first to notice the signs of poverty and the needs of their pupils, and they can provide practical and emotional assistance, such as providing breakfast clubs, clothing banks, homework clubs, pastoral care and referrals to other agencies.

However, teachers and frontline staff also face many challenges and pressures in their work, such as workload, stress, lack of resources, training and guidance, and the risk of Covid-19 infection. They cannot tackle the impact of child poverty on education by themselves, and they need more support and recognition from the government, the local authorities and the wider society.

The EIS, Scotland’s largest teachers’ union, has called for a national anti-poverty strategy that would address the root causes of poverty and ensure that all children and young people have access to quality education, health care, housing and social security. The union has also urged the government to increase the value of benefits and introduce a living wage for all workers.

The Future of Education in Scotland

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed and amplified the deep and persistent inequalities that affect the lives and learning of many children and young people in Scotland. It has also highlighted the importance and the challenges of providing equitable and inclusive education for all.

As the country recovers from the crisis, there is an opportunity to recalibrate equity and social justice in Scottish education and to bounce forward with renewed commitment and vision. This requires a holistic and collaborative approach that involves all stakeholders, such as the government, the local authorities, the schools, the teachers, the parents, the pupils, the charities and the communities.

It also requires a recognition and a celebration of the strengths and resilience of the children and young people who have faced and overcome adversity, and a respect and appreciation of the diversity and richness of their experiences, cultures and identities.

By Ishan Crawford

Prior to the position, Ishan was senior vice president, strategy & development for Cumbernauld-media Company since April 2013. He joined the Company in 2004 and has served in several corporate developments, business development and strategic planning roles for three chief executives. During that time, he helped transform the Company from a traditional U.S. media conglomerate into a global digital subscription service, unified by the journalism and brand of Cumbernauld-media.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts