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'There's pressure to pay for extras'

Children's educational achievement seems to have risen during the 18 years of Conservative government. But what of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged? Reva Klein looks beyond the exam league tables.

Beverley Bulmer from Sunderland has three children aged 15, 11 and eight.

The family lives on the Pounds 400 a month she earns as a community liaison worker. Because she is in work, she receives no benefit.

With her rent, the Pounds 70 she spends on food a week, and Pounds 18 per week on school dinners, she is left with precious little. "There's a lot of pressure on kids and parents to pay for extras at school," she says.

"My 11-year-old came home asking for Pounds 180 for a school trip to France. She can only go because a family member is paying for her. The school often asks for money for school excursions and Pounds 2.50 for cooking lessons which you have to pay. It is part of the curriculum. So me and my friend pool food between us.

"It bothers me that I can't buy my 15-year-old a computer which would help her with coursework. But I can't."

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