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Analysis - Hitting deprivation in the small pockets

The problems of rural poverty and underachievement have long been recognised, but rarely tackled head on.

The proportion of children affected is relatively small, so making a song and dance about raising achievement in small pockets of rural deprivation is not a huge vote-winner for the Government.

But recent high-profile closures of hundreds of village schools and post offices have put deprived rural communities - the underdogs of the underdog world - in the national spotlight again.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) says its decision to campaign on the issue this year is a natural extension of its research into child poverty in 2007.

Andy Ballard, the union's new president, also holds the issue close to his heart after a career teaching in Somerset.

"I remember a child coming into school who was so undernourished he had bad teeth and rickets," he said.

"My wife still works in a school in Somerset, and the children of poor families are growing up just as impoverished as their parents did."

While the numbers are relatively small, it doesn't mean the issue shouldn't be big. The question remains, though, is there the political will beyond the ATL to do anything about it?

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