Today’s report from the Social Mobility Commission makes for alarming reading but the findings are familiar to anyone who works with the best interests of children and young people at heart.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT said: “Rightly, schools are at the centre of the efforts to improve equality of opportunity. But it would be wrong to expect schools to solve the problem on their own. The issues that underpin inequality reach far beyond the school gates and exist throughout the communities that schools serve.”
Cuts to local authority budgets have greatly reduced the sources of support for families on low incomes. New research from NAHT, to be published in full on Saturday, shows that increasingly, schools are filling that gap.
75% of school leaders who we polled recently reported seeing an increase or significant increase in the number of parents coming to school to ask for financial support or support with essentials in the last five years.
Mr Whiteman continued: “Some of the areas where it is hardest to be socially mobile have suffered from decades of under-investment and shrinking opportunities for well-paid and highly skilled work. If we’re serious about improving equality in the UK we’ve got to look at all these factors. Schools can’t do it alone. It would also be entirely wrong to expect schools to make a difference if they are struggling for money themselves.
“The alarm bells are ringing. The DfE seems to be paying attention. Now it’s time for the Treasury to wake up too.”
NAHT’s survey of members about the impact of austerity on pupils and their families included this quote from a school leader in Birmingham: “This year has seen additional strain and emotional distress for children as we have seen families being evicted and made homeless. This has not been the case in my twenty years at the school but in the last two months five families have been impacted upon in this manner.”
Further examples of the ‘austerity stories’ from schools are available on request. NAHT will be including a summary of all of remarks they’ve gathered from school leaders in a letter to all MPs on Tuesday 7th May.
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