The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country’s largest teaching union, has today (Friday) formally launched a summary report of a member survey on the impact of poverty in education.
The survey was designed to gauge members’ perceptions of how poverty arising from cuts to social security benefits, poor wages and insecurity of employment, is impacting in the classroom.
Commenting on the results of the survey EIS Assistant Secretary for Education and Equality, Andrea Bradley said, “This latest survey of EIS members confirms that the grip of poverty continues to tighten on alarmingly high numbers of Scotland’s children. The results clearly underline that low-income poverty significantly blights the day to day educational experiences of the 260,000 children and young people, now living in poverty in Scotland.”
Ms Bradley continued, “To the EIS, it is an outrage that over a quarter of the country’s school-aged young people whose families are struggling on low income, are prevented from benefiting, on an equal footing to the rest of their peers, from the many opportunities offered by the education system. Urgent and decisive action at all levels of government is essential to prevent further damage. Children’s education and life chances cannot continue to be sacrificed in the name of austerity.”
Ms Bradley added, “While the recent additional funding to schools by the Scottish Government is welcome, it is against a backdrop of successive years of under-funding of comprehensive education, which must be addressed. Recent announcements around school governance, while perhaps having the potential to fill current gaps in the pedagogical support and professional learning opportunities available to schools, leave many bigger questions about the policies and resources required to close the poverty-related attainment gap unanswered.”
Almost 60% of those who engaged with the survey indicated they had seen an increase in the number of children attending their schools who are experiencing poverty. In relation to food, nutrition and hunger, more than 50% of respondents reported an increase in the number of children coming to school without snacks or money for the tuck shop. Increased signs of poverty-related mental ill health were reported with more than three quarters of those taking part in the survey perceiving that poverty is impacting negatively on children’s and young people’s mental health.
The results of the survey show that equipment and resources were regarded as a challenge for families struggling on low income with 72% of respondents reporting an increase in the number of children coming to school without stationery, school bags and PE kits. 46% of those completing the survey said that they had seen an increase in the number of pupils unable to complete homework that required ICT access at home.
EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan commented, “These results, which make for shocking reading, highlight the crucial influence of family income on children’s engagement and participation in school, and the extent to which children can thrive on the opportunities offered by education. The EIS believes that education can make a difference to the life chances of young people affected by poverty, but schools need to be properly resourced.”