How the cruel cut of eviction causes lasting educational scars

25th January 2008 at 00:00
Families that are referred to the homelessness charity Shelter have often fallen off every kind of social and educational radar.

Wendy York (not her real name) knows how that feels. She and her five children had a very difficult time when her husband left and she was evicted from her dream home on the outskirts of Bristol just over two years ago.

First came seven weeks in a single room of a mice-ridden bed and breakfast "in the middle of nowhere". Then a year of temporary accommodation - a four-bedroom house, yes, but smelly, dirty, damp and distant. For the past year, they have been in permanent accommodation in the area where they used to live. But the scars, not least educational, remain.

On the day they were evicted, in October 2005, her youngest turned five. She had just started at the local primary school and has since missed a whole year of schooling because when the family moved into permanent accommodation, the nearby school did not have a place for her. At one stage, Wendy educated her at home.

Wendy appealed twice, but the school could not go over its admissions limit. The local authority, meanwhile, had her daughter down as still attending her former school. "If we hadn't appealed, she would have been missed from the whole education system," says her mother.

The eldest daughter, now 13, missed a good half of her first year at secondary school, thus losing out on that vital period of making new friends.

Her confidence has been shaken and she does not go out socially. Although she still goes to the same school, her attendance has been spasmodic and there have been episodes of bullying and one attack that has left her deeply distressed.

The oldest boy, who was in reception when they were evicted, appears to have fared better. Although he missed "a good few months" while they were moving around, and started to behave disruptively, he got into the local primary straightaway when they came to rest. His younger brothers, fortunately, were too young to realise what was going on.

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