Great expectations for all

7th September 2007 at 01:00
Government policies will tackle the failing fifth of school pupils

TEN YEARS of Labour policies have done little to bridge the social divide between children who get support at home for their learning and those who do not.

A major study of the effect of poverty on education shows that while many working-class children may be materially comfortable, they are still confined to a poverty of expectation from their parents.

The study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said policies such as the Excellence in Cities programme and Sure Start were piecemeal improvements and that the Government should strive for fundamental, long-term changes.

Speaking to The TES this week, Ed Balls, Secretary for Children, Schools and Families, conceded the Government must do more to help the fifth of pupils who "aren't learning effectively".

"The reason why we've got a new department called the Department for Children, Schools and Families is a recognition that we haven't done enough and we haven't done it in the co-ordinated way we would like," he said.

Mr Balls said Sure Start and working family tax credits were vital changes in tackling poverty.

The six reports published today suggest poorer pupils feel "got at" in school and get little help with schoolwork at home, while many middle-class children complained that their parents were almost too involved in homework and monitored them zealously.

One report compared the views of private-school pupils with those from a council estate. Many of the poorer children said they were bored in lessons, shouted at for not knowing what to do and felt that children who stayed behind at school for any reason apart from a detention must be "swots".

The lives of pupils at private schools were dominated by education. They tended to value their school as a means of achieving in later life and took part in a huge range of extra-curricular activities.

The study warned that extended schools would not help to improve poorer children's education if they simply lengthened school hours and failed to give some degree of personal space and attention.

At its annual conference in Brighton next week, the Trades Union Congress is expected to condemn the Goverment's slow progress in reducing child poverty, and to call for funding of pound;4 billion to help disadvantaged children.

Ed Balls interview, page 3 Full reports, pages 16-17

Donald Hirsch, page 28

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