No Ealing comedy

25th September 1998 at 01:00
The Ealing study confirming the link between child poverty and poor educational performance (page 3) will surprise no one. Nevertheless, it reminds us not only that the poor are always with us - but that their children are often concentrated in schools that can do least to improve their life chances.

The Government may say that it doesn't need the reminder. After all, Pounds 540 million is to be allocated to disadvantaged pre-school children under the Sure Start scheme. We have education action zones coming on stream, and the promise of Pounds 800m for 17 Path Finder projects which will aim to turn around blighted neighbourhoods.

The money is welcome because schools in poor districts have traditionally received only 5 per cent more funding than those in socially-privileged areas. The emphasis on partnerships is also important - because schools cannot counter the pernicious effects of poverty all on their own.

But history shows us that political priorities change, and that such programmes tend to have disturbingly short lives. We do not doubt the Government's good intentions, but an aide-memoire - perhaps a gilt-framed manifesto promise fixed above each ministerial desk - would not go amiss.

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