Scottish Government Publishes Annual Report on Child Poverty Strategy The Scottish Government in late December published its Annual Report on the child Poverty Strategy. Worryingly, the report clearly indicates that in spite of Scottish Government measures taken so far to mitigate the impact of UK-wide austerity, both relative and absolute child poverty levels have risen in Scotland since the last annual report was published. Currently 220,000 children, representing more than one in five of Scotland’s children are in poverty. Like Angela Constance, Cabinet Secretary for Community, Social Security and Equalities, the EIS regards this situation as wholly unacceptable, and along with the wider trade union movement, continues to urge governments at all levels to make political choices that reflect genuine commitment to social and economic justice, and the resolve to safeguard our most vulnerable members of society, including children, against economic vicissitude. In light of the 2.5% increase in the number of people, many of whom are parents, earning less than the Living Wage since 2014, as indicated in the report, the EIS would urge employers to honour the responsibility that they have to creating a fairer, more just Scotland. There can be no disputing the high correlation between levels of parental income and children’s educational attainment. Impact of Austerity The report also points to the fact that, as the impact of austerity has hardened for families and communities, and indeed for local authorities and schools, the attainment of the children from the poorest families, unsurprisingly, has suffered in some aspects of literacy and in numeracy. Poverty wages and cuts to social
The Scottish Educational Journal
security benefits are clearly having a detrimental impact, also, on the nutrition of children from low income families. While the diet of children in all other households has improved within the last decade, with an increase in the number of children eating the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables per day, there has been a 3% decrease within the same period in the number of children from the lowest income deciles eating so healthily. This underlines strongly the importance of current free school meal provision for all P1 to P3, and the need for this to be universally extended. Extra - Curricular Access by the poorest of children to sporting activities has also declined over a five year period, and is significantly lower than that of children from other households: three quarters of children from all households played sport in the week that the data was captured, compared with just over half of those from the lowest income deciles. This raises clear questions about the financial barriers that too many children face in accessing extra-curricular activities and learning beyond school that contributes significantly to their development and their physical and mental wellbeing.
Finally, in terms of the damaging impact of poverty on children’s health and wellbeing, the report underlines the stigma experienced by children and young people living in poverty. Latest data indicates that since 2006, there has been a 13% decrease in the number of children from the poorest backgrounds reporting that they feel accepted and included in the classroom. (This is compared with a 10.8% decline during the same period among children from all other households, which is of some concern, also, as a measure of children and young people’s mental health and how this affects them at school.) The EIS is clear that poverty and social inequality impact negatively on children’s and young people’s experiences of school and therefore on their life chances beyond. While schools and teachers do much to mitigate the impact of poverty, as evidenced, for example, by the increasing numbers of children from the lowest income deciles reaching positive destinations, significant additional investment in education is required in order to maximise the capacity of schools to lessen the damaging effects of poverty caused by political decision-making that occurs far from the school gates. The EIS continues to lobby for this.
Scottish Educational Journal Vol. 101 Issue. 1