Friday Five: child poverty, Labour education policies, cost of learning, art colleges, economic wellbeing


22nd September 2023

1. New schools survey shows that child poverty in schools is getting worse, with concerns about pupils’ ability to engage with their education

A new report from Child Poverty Action Group – and supported by a number of organisations, including, CfEY – shows that child poverty in schools is getting worse.

It follows a survey of over 1,000 professionals working in schools, including senior leaders, teachers, support staff, governors, among others. The results make for some grim reading. 79% school staff say they and their colleagues increasingly have less time and capacity for other parts of their roles because of the effects of child poverty, while 74% say there is evidence that children in poverty are falling further behind than previously at school. 53% of all teachers reported an increase in the number of pupils struggling to concentrate on learning due to hunger and fatigue. 

These findings are deeply concerning, particularly as schools are already having to deal with other challenges such as rising costs, poor buildings (as we have seen in the news recently), and cuts to other services.

In response, the report three key policy recommendations are made:

  1. Expanding free school meals entitlement (a proposal backed by 80% of school staff in the survey)
  2. Increasing financial support to low-income and middle-income families
  3. Providing more support with school costs, e.g. school uniforms and trips

Read the report here.

2. Teachers rank labour policy education policies

In a poll conducted by Teacher Tapp, 10,000 teachers rank 15 policies from the Labour Party’s recent education briefing, using comparative judgement. There was an overwhelming agreement about the policies ranked in the top six. Almost every group of teachers prioritised them in exactly the same way- regardless of age, experience, school type etc- highlighting that mental health is a clear priority for teachers. 

  1. Open-access mental health hubs in every community 
  2. Place more mental health professionals in schools 
  3. Hire more mental health professionals
  4. Replace Ofsted grades with a ‘balanced scorecard’ 
  5. Breakfast clubs in every primary school 
  6. Annual training entitlement for every teacher 

The only policy with significant disagreement between some teachers is the private school taxation policy. Private school teachers were much less in favour of the tax changes than the average teacher. There was a split in opinion between primary and secondary school teachers on some policies such as reviewing curriculum and assessments.

Read the entire article here.

3. HEPI publishes report on cost-of-learning crisis

The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) has released a report that documents strategies adopted by higher education institutions to support students affected by the cost-of-living crisis, by conducting a website audit of 140 members of Universities UK. Some of the key findings of the report are: 

  • Three-quarters (76%) of universities help their students with food and drink, with nearly half (47%) helping with health and more than a third (35%) helping with travel and digital. 
  • Wales, South West, North East and South East were the regions where universities were most likely to operate a food bank, with Northern Ireland and London the least likely. 
  • On average, hardship funds that are awarded go up to £2,470 and institutions commit to get funds to students within four weeks.
  • The report also showcases three case studies from the University of Manchester and Buckinghamshire New University. At the University of Manchester, an independent cost-of-living working group campaigned for and facilitated payments of £170 to more than 90% of its student body. At Buckinghamshire New University, participation in all clubs, societies and skills was made free through the ‘Big Deal’.

The report makes several recommendations, including the need to establish cost-of-living working groups in all universities, student unions to advocate for an ambitious and practical cost-of-living campaign and for the Government to establish a cost-of-living taskforce that regularly consults with students and sector leaders. 

Read the full report here

4. Article explores the decline of art colleges in the UK

A new article from Alice Fisher explores the decline of UK art colleges. Two alumni of Great Yarmouth College of Art and Design have started the Art School Project, which aims to identify old art college buildings and produce an archive. In exhibiting this work, they will give recognition of these institutions, which are now in rapid decline.

Interestingly, many local art schools were founded during the industrial revolution with the aim of teaching creative skills – the sort of place-based agenda we often hear in discussions about skills policy or (dare I say) ‘levelling up’. As Matthew Cornford, one of those behind the project, explained, “The buildings were a sign of civic pride (…) part of the town infrastructure along with the police station and the library”. These schools provided an arts education to those who would end up working in music, film, fashion and other creative industries.

These local art colleges also represent an important opportunity for economically disadvantaged young people. Artist Lydia Blakeley has emphasised that “Regional art schools are so important for people from lower-income backgrounds to be able to access arts education”, with fewer than 8% of creative works coming from working-class backgrounds.

Read the article here.

5. New report investigates (older) people’s concerns about the economic wellbeing of their younger relatives 

The Resolution Foundation and Nuffield College, Oxford investigate in this new report people’s attitudes towards intergenerational inequalities in economic wellbeing, as well as public policies that might help reduce them. The report shows that within the group of middle-aged (40-59) and older (60+) Burtons, there is a growing concern about the difficulties faced by younger adults and support for policies of state investment in them. The report finds that: 

  • Over half of under 40s believe that they will have worse living standards over their lifetimes than their parents. 
  • 59% of adults aged 40-59 and 45% of 60+ adults believe that current younger generations are worse-off financially than both those groups. 
  • Almost one in three people in both the age groups (40-59 and 60+) think it likely that they themselves will need to give significant financial or practical support to their younger family members within the next decade. 
  • These groups show significant support for policies on vocational education and free childcare. 
  • Older adults with financially struggling younger family members are 13 percentage points less likely to support the Conservatives, and 9 percentage points more likely to support Labour, than the average person of their age. For those in their forties and fifties these gaps are 7 and 5 percentage points, respectively.

The authors conclude by pointing the attention of politicians and policy-makers to the fact that older generations are not likely to only support and vote for policies that are in their age-specific self-interest and that a substantial minority of older votes are likely to be motivated in the next general election to support parties and policies that help out the young. 

Read the full report here.


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