The Joseph Rowntree Foundation utilised longitudinal studies, including the British Cohort Study, to look at the impact of poverty on attainment. By measuring parental socioeconomic position against children’s test scores, researchers found gaps in cognitive development from an early age between better and worse off groups, and this widens as children progress through school.
Children aged 5 living in poverty are around 8 months behind their peers academically. Around three quarters of children aged 11 from the poorest families reach the expected Key Stage 2 levels, in comparison to 97% of the children from the richest families. Even when these children do begin to succeed it has also been found that they are more likely to fall behind. Evidence also shows equally large differences in social and emotional development. The attainment gap widens most in primary school and, without intervention, continues to affect secondary schooling and success in further education.
This difference can be due to factors of health and wellbeing, family interactions and background, the home learning environment, and parenting styles and rules. This includes having set routines, and being read to regularly. Through this, parents’ cognitive ability, attitudes to learning, aspirations, and behaviours are passed onto children.
Areas they identify for policy improvement include parents and the family home, the school’s approach, and children’s attitudes and behaviours. Interventions can also be of help, and there is a proven effectiveness when this is directed towards the family setting. There are early years programmes for this, but more work needs to continue in schools the children who are most in need and using developing evidence to support this.
“We know that a child’s background has a key role to play in their academic achievement as well as their social and emotional development and the Department for Education introduced the Pupil Premium for this reason. However, research also suggests that children’s emotional health is a better predictor of their eventual exam grades than their socioeconomic background.
We developed a Health and Wellbeing Monitoring Tool to help schools to identify which children need more support in this area and to track the effectiveness of such interventions. Evolve’s primary school programme (Project HE:RO) improved the emotional wellbeing of a cohort of 2,306 vulnerable pupils by 8% in 2016/17 and we are excited about extending our offer to many more pupils during 2017/18 and beyond.”
– John Bishop, Evolve Managing Director
To read the full report, click here.