A belated Happy New Year to colleagues; I really hope you all managed a rest over the Christmas break and kept healthy. Welcome back, I know that schools have hit the ground running, putting in place the arrangements to welcome back pupils, whilst coming to terms with the changes in DfE guidance, renewed testing regimes and adapting to new timelines.

Over the holiday period I had the luxury of time to catch up on some reading, and one of the reports I reflected on was the Labour party research, which found that more than half of black children in the UK are now growing up in poverty. The research showed that black children are twice as likely to be growing up poor as white children, this is based on government figures for households that have a ‘relative income’ defined as below 60% of the median, the standard definition for poverty. There was wide variation among ethnic groups with the report stating that Bangladeshi children are the poorest, with 61% of them living in a poor household. Prior to COVID-19, there were more than four million children living in poverty in the UK – that’s nine children in a classroom of 30. In London, that number rises to 11. While the full economic impact of the pandemic is yet to be seen, we know that low-income households are bearing the brunt, and for families living in the capital, things are likely to get worse before they get better. These figures are cause for concern and the CEO of the Runnmyede Trust stated that, These are not cyclical inequalities that are being flagged…you cannot simply solve the issue of racial inequality without also addressing socio-economic disparities’.

Schools and social care recognise and deal with families from all ethnic backgrounds on a day to day basis, they are also quick to act to provide support with pupils presenting with need, based on poverty. This has included food parcels, providing school uniform and coats in winter, supporting parents with complicated forms to access welfare state financial support, laptops, wifi vouchers and a warm safe place to learn. There is much that schools do to tackle child poverty and it is worth reminding ourselves that the GLA report, Tackling Child Poverty Tackling-child-poverty-a-guide-for-schools.pdf (cpag.org.uk) provides practical lessons for schools on how to prevent and mitigate the worst effects of child poverty, so that every child can thrive in the school environment and get the most out of learning. Some initiatives may not, at first, appear to be related to tackling poverty (e.g., because they serve all children), but research shows that they can have a particularly positive impact for disadvantaged children if designed appropriately. In fact, the more inclusive an approach, the more likely it is to benefit children and families in poverty, as it is less likely to be stigmatising. As our Education Strategy strongly outlines and endorses, a system for all will be built on the twin pillars of equity and excellence, we know that a system which is better for disadvantaged children is better for everyone.

Jon Abbey

Managing Director of Camden Learning

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