CHILDREN from working-class homes are no more likely to get educational qualifications than they were 20 years ago, writes Geraldine Hackett.
Research from the Institute of Education's centre for longitudinal studies suggests that while girls have improved their lot, social class remains a major factor in determining life chances.
According to the study, Obstacles and Opportunities on the Route to Adulthood, more children were born to educated parents in 1970 than in 1958. However, for those born into poverty, there remains persistent under-achievement. The report says education provides an avenue for children from disadvantaged backgrounds but their peers from advantaged families gain even more from school.
The report says: "Class of origin and childhood poverty make education attainment more difficult even for children of similar test sores."
For children from disadvantaged backgrounds, the die is cast by the time they reach the third year of secondary school, when they may have already started to truant.
The message for policy-makers, says the report, is that early intervention is the most effective way to tackle disadvantage. One of the key predictors of later success is how well children do at primary school.
The research supports Government initiatives such as Sure Start, that target resources at families with young children. The authors, John Bynner, Heather Joshi and Maria Tsatsas, say family-literacy schemes may also be an effective way of overcoming poverty.
'Obstacles and opportunities on the route to adulthood: Evidence from rural and urban Britain' is to be published shortly by the centre for longitudinal studies at the Institute of Education.