1 March 2017
Commenting on a Teach First report on the hurdles facing children from disadvantaged backgrounds, Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the NUT, the largest teachers' union, said:
"Teach First are right to point out that poverty does have a negative impact on children's educational achievement. Poverty blights children's and parents lives and is a problem that successive Governments have failed to address. It is this failure that is the elephant in the room of every education debate.
"Schools, however, cannot rectify the problems on their own. Teachers work tirelessly to ensure all children get the education they deserve regardless of background but nevertheless poverty holds children back. Cuts to school budgets and local authority support services mean many head teachers are struggling to provide the resources and extra-curricular activities that are so important in bridging economic disadvantage. If the Government's funding proposals are not drastically overhauled things will get much worse, and schools with the highest number of children on free school meals will be some of the hardest hit.
"The issue of schools admissions also need to be addressed. As today's Sutton Report shows many academies are overseeing their own admissions codes, leading to the covert selection of pupils. The 500 so called 'top performing' schools have a proportion of children eligible for free school meals that is scarcely more than half the national average.
"The 'glass ceiling' referred to in the report, placed on children in poverty, can be removed but it requires society-wide change. Reducing child poverty - and properly funding our schools and local authorities - is essential if we are to address effectively the inequality poverty leads to. Surely as one of the richest countries in the world this is achievable."