As the North East sees the UK’s biggest rise in child poverty levels outside London, Francesca Hogg, our Poverty Proofing Practice Adviser, explains why it’s time all schools were poverty proofed
End Child Poverty has just released new research showing the extent of child poverty over the past four years. Shockingly, the North East has seen the UK’s largest increase in child poverty since 2014/15, rising from 26 per cent to 35 per cent which means that, after London, the region has the highest rate of child poverty in the UK.
This is of huge concern, given these statistics do not take into account the disastrous impact that Covid-19 has had on family finances. However, we have already seen unemployment in the region rise to 6.6 per cent in August 2020*, making it the highest rate in the country, so it is reasonable to assume that Covid-19 will mean more families struggling to stay afloat and those families that were already in poverty prior to Covid-19, being pulled deeper into poverty.
These rising levels of poverty, a result of the structures within our society, will have had an impact on children’s health and wellbeing, but we also need to be asking, how does it affect their participation in school life?
In a classroom of 30 children, there will be an average of nine children living in poverty and through our Poverty Proofing the School Day programme, we know that living in poverty means turning up at school with an empty stomach and not being able to afford school uniform costs. It means events like non-uniform day become far from fun and the simple homework activity of making a volcano becomes unattainable.
“As a charity, our mission is to ensure ALL children and young people grow up to be healthy and happy, so it is our duty at Children North East to support children and their families so they can fully participate in the school day.
These shocking statistics, mean that now more than ever, our work is vital.”
Through our Poverty Proofing the School Day programme, we work with schools across the country to explore barriers to learning that children in poverty face. We help and support schools to further the excellent work that they do and explore what the school day looks like from the perspective of the poorest child in their school.
This leads to small, practical changes to policies and everyday practices, so that all children and young people can enjoy and participate in the learning and fun that school offers.
Given that Covid-19 has presented additional challenges, it’s more important than ever that we understand and have an awareness of the full impacts that poverty can have on children and young people. Therefore, we have adapted our programme to be delivered online and to explore barriers specific to Covid-19. So I’d urge schools to get in touch with us about how we can support you to overcome barriers to participation for children and young people in your school. For more information, get in touch with us at CNEschools@children-ne.org.uk or visit our website at www.povertyproofing.co.uk.