Monday, 29 June 2015

Child Poverty- Still a national disgrace

I have lost track of the number of Tory-leaning folks I have known over the years who have trained as teachers and then undergone a swift political conversion.  Not because the staffroom is stuffed full of left wing revolutionaries (because it isn't, despite what the Daily Mail will tell you) but because they start to see the real-life effects of the political policies of the Right on the young people we teach, day in, day out.

Teachers see first hand what "cuts" mean. It stops being about huge abstract figures thrown around by politicians, or pretty pie charts in a tabloid paper; and starts to be the staff we can't replace, the specialist services we used to be able to access for our kids, the EMA payment that helped our poorest sixth formers stay in education.

"Benefit sanctions" stop being about the mythical war on so-called scroungers, and start to be about the real parents we see who struggle to pay the bills, to provide for their children- even to put food on the table.

Building and resourcing schools did not cause the banking crisis.  Teachers and teaching assistants did not cause the banking crisis. Children's Centres did not cause the banking crisis. EMA did not cause the banking crisis. Making sure that families could put food on the table for their children did not cause the banking crisis.

"Politics of Envy" is the standard riposte by the Right whenever the wealth and privilege of those at the top is challenged. But it takes on a different angle for those of us who see kids with great talent, ability and potential, and know that at every step of their lives they will be playing with life's cards stacked against them by the privilege of those from wealthy backgrounds who have the way very much cleared in front of them.

Child Poverty is a national disgrace, and the Government has so little to offer (or desire to fundamentally challenge the problem) that they are now planning to change the way they collate the data- to fiddle the figures in other words.

NUT General Secretary, Kevin Courtney said last week:-

Today’s figures show that the Government has nothing to offer when it comes to tackling child poverty. Indeed, so resigned are they to this fact that they have announced plans to remove existing targets for getting child poverty down. This is a disgrace coming from a Government which presides over one of the wealthiest nations.

It is the poorest in society who are bearing the brunt of austerity measures. Unless the issue of child poverty is addressed, millions of children will never achieve their full potential.  Teachers are only too aware of the problems of poverty and, frankly, deprivation that face our pupils.  They take their pastoral responsibility very seriously, but addressing society-wide inequity cannot be the task of schools alone. 

Children and young people who arrive at school hungry, who live in poor housing and who cope with the daily struggle of living in households with  little money, cannot learn as well as they could and should. Teachers should do everything they can with every child – and they do.  Politicians should do everything they can to eliminate poverty – but they don’t.”

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