The Government should commit to developing a robust poverty strategy that will give all children the best possible life chances.
SCHOOLS NorthEast, the regional network of schools, and Children North East, a regional children’s charity, are today making a joint call to the Chancellor to do more to support disadvantaged and struggling communities in our region in his Autumn Statement.
There are areas in the North East where poverty has risen at an alarming rate. Middlesbrough has the thirteenth highest percentage of children who live in poverty in the country – nearly 40% of them. Based on the number of pupils eligible for Free School Meals, Middlesbrough is also the sixth worst area for pupil poverty in the country.
Poverty has a proven impact on the education and life chances of young people. The region as a whole has become the capital of Free School Meals and research has repeatedly shown that white children, who are eligible, are consistently the lowest performing group in the country. Only 1 in 4 (24%) of white British boys who are eligible for free school meals achieve 5+ A* to C grade GCSEs. The same is true for fewer than one in three (32%) of white British girls.
Mike Parker, Director of SCHOOLS NorthEast, said: “Poverty is one of the factors harming pupils’ attainment that schools cannot address alone. While at a regional level there are organisations, services, and programmes that aim to alleviate the problem, our poverty-stricken communities need to be on the Government’s radar as an immediate priority.
“The new Chancellor needs to use his first Autumn Statement as an opportunity to make a meaningful difference for struggling families in the North East.
“Greater funding needs to go to communities where, historically, there has been a record of low pupil attainment.”
Jeremy Cripps, Chief Executive of Children North East, said “Government must support North East businesses create long term jobs so that people in our most disadvantaged communities can escape the 'low pay, no pay' cycle.”
“Government should give tax breaks to businesses that pay the Living Wage Foundation Living Wage of £8.45 an hour; and immediately remove Child Benefit and Child Tax Allowance from the benefit cap.”
[i] Based on figures from the End Child Poverty coalition published on 8 November: http://www.endchildpoverty.org.uk/new-figures-reveal-nearly-half-of-children-are-living-in-poverty-in-some-parts-of-the-uk/
[ii] Based on figures from Education Datalab using the Government’s annual National Pupil Database: http://schoolsnortheast.com/news-and-events/article/new-pm-must-tackle-north-east-poverty-as-region-becomes-the-free-school-meals-capital-of-england/