Poverty may be no excuse for failure but even ministers acknowledge that schools with a high proportion of children from families on low incomes find it harder to succeed. When Labour came to power, parents and teachers were told that zero tolerance of failure would go hand-in-hand with a war on child poverty and social exclusion. We have seen plenty of the former but, as yet, little real evidence of a fall in the number of children living below the breadline.
Some research suggests that the concentration of poverty in certain schools has increased since 1997.Many of the poorest local authorities remain trapped close to the bottom of the league tables. And the day-to-day reality in schools such as St Clement's primary in Salford (Friday magazine, page 8) shows the scale of the problems.
The fact that St Clement's is managing to succeed against the odds is a tribute to its staff. But we cannot continue to rely on the personal sacrifices of individual teachers. So it is good to be able to welcome another 66 Sure Start schemes aimed at ensuring a better start in life for some of our most deprived children.