Prior to COVID-19, there were more than four million children living in poverty in the UK – that’s nine children in a classroom of 30. In London, that number rises to 11. While the full economic impact of the pandemic is yet to be seen, we know that low-income households are bearing the brunt, and for families living in the capital things are likely to get worse before they get better. Even prior to COVID-19, the high cost of rent, childcare and travel made it very difficult for London families on low incomes to cover basic costs. In addition, families with children have been hit the hardest by cuts to the social security system, squeezing family budgets even further. In the face of this, our public services have a crucial role to play in tackling child poverty and ensuring children and families recover from the pandemic.
Schools, as a universal non-stigmatising service that the vast majority of families access, are essential. As our new guide shows, London’s schools are already supporting children from low-income households in innovative ways, and their efforts are producing results. Schools that invest in ‘extended schools’ programmes are closing the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers, helping to chip away at the strong, but not inevitable, link between poverty and poorer educational outcomes.
Schools have many challenges at present. At a minimum, they need to be funded adequately to be able to support low-income families, and CPAG will continue to make the case to government for investment in extended schools because they matter, if we are to end child poverty.
In the meantime, we are grateful to the GLA for championing this work at a local level, and providing the opportunity for CPAG to work with schools to understand the key factors for success in this area. This guide brings together what we have learned from this research project, and provides practical support for those thinking about how they might begin to tackle child poverty in their school. We wish them every success in developing this important work.