Open your eyes about poverty

17th March 2000 at 00:00
HENRY MAITLES'S article (TESS, March 10) makes some rather ill-informed claims about the lack of research on the links between education and poverty.

Unlike in England, research on social class, socio-economic circumstances, poverty and education did not vanish in Scotland in the 1980s and 1990s.

There's an authoritative summary of a lot of it in the valuable book Educational Disadvantage in Scotland (1994) by John Nisbet and Joyce Watt.

The character of the Scottish research is enormously varied, but it all points towards one overwhelming conclusion, that poverty damages children's educational chances more than any other aspect of social inequality.

There are specific evaluations of local policy - for example, Strathclyde University's work on home-school links in Renfrew-shire. There are broader assessments of large-scale policy questions, several fnded by the Scottish Executive - for example, Moray House's evaluation of early intervention (one of the main aspects of which is the programme's capacity to overcome the effects of poverty).

There is the tracking of social class differences in access to higher education by at least three teams of researchers (in Napier University, Glasgow Caledonian University and Edinburgh University). There is Aberdeen University's analysis of rural deprivation.

What's more, again unlike in England, all this work has remained rooted in practice and policy. The evidence on the effects of poverty is there, overwhelmingly. If Scottish politicians in power have chosen to ignore it, that's a different matter. But don't blame Scottish researchers (and their multifarious funders) for not telling them.

Lindsay Paterson. Faculty of Education, University of Edinburgh.


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