Little Lives works to create more opportunities for underprivileged children; tackling the barriers that they face and supporting them to work on their dreams and aspirations. Unfortunately, this is a huge undertaking in the London community, which has the highest rate of child poverty in the UK. In the average classroom, nine students are living below the poverty line. These children are more likely to experience social deprivation, mental health problems and exclusion from school.
Why are underprivileged children at greater risk of leaving education?
Children living in poverty and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to suffer from a low sense of well-being, have poorer physical health and experience stigma and bullying at school – all of which can lead to a lack of motivation and academic underachievement. A low sense of well-being can also result in behavioural issues, which can impact upon a student’s education and, in more serious circumstances, devastate their school career. Sadly, more children are at risk of falling into the poverty trap, claims The Children’s Society: “We know that parents are skipping meals so they can afford to feed their children, and in winter many families are forced to make the impossible choice of feeding their children or heating their homes.”
The Children’s Society expressed concerns that there are clear links between poverty and mental health problems, and that cuts to support for low income families could impact the mental health and well-being of children across the UK. As children from disadvantaged backgrounds are being hit hardest by these changes, recent figures show that school exclusions are on the rise in London. An increasing number of children are being expelled from their schools, the majority of whom are children from low-income families and students with special educational needs.
What are the implications?
School expulsion can have a devastating effect on the child, their families and society as a whole: as children leave education, a lack of support means that they often find it difficult to find direction and employment. Recent cuts to youth services have removed lifelines for expelled and underachieving students and, as a result, these young people are more likely to fall into substance abuse, criminal activity or gang involvement. While there are certainly incidents when expulsion is necessary, Susan Rees (ACE) has said it can also be an admission of failure. “It is extremely costly to the child, the family and society at large.”
To combat the high rates of school exclusion in London, we need to address social and economic disadvantage. Many families are struggling to cope with the rising cost of living, which can impact their child’s relationship with education. It is important that young people facing these challenges are supported to invest in their education and encouraged to develop a vision for their future.