Friday Five: child poverty, SEND support, children’s homes, free school meals, STEM careers


26th January 2024

JRF report reveals huge disparities in child poverty rates across the UK

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s UK Poverty 2024 report provides stark data on the state of child poverty across the country. Over 44% of children in Tower Hamlets, Birmingham, and Manchester live in poverty, with over 40% of children in a further 17 local authorities living in similar conditions. The report found that key drivers of child poverty include high housing costs in cities and lower rates of employment and pay in industrial and coastal areas. 

Tackling child poverty has been a longstanding focus for us at CfEY. Our 2021 book Young People on the Margins looked at the impact of child poverty and what needs to be done to end it, and we’re working closely this year with the Child Poverty Action Group to capture important youth voices with lived experience of child poverty.

The full JRF report is here.

DfE boosts support for children with SEND 

The Department for Education (DfE) has announced additional support for families of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). The Short Breaks Innovation Programme, backed by £30 million, will extend to seven more local authorities, providing activities like cooking classes or theatre trips to enhance the well-being of children with SEND. A pilot programme has been launched for young people with SEND between 16 and 24 to widen the eligibility for work-based learning opportunities. Alongside this, the government announced that new systematic data will be collected to better understand the learning experiences of children with Down Syndrome by modifying the School Census process. 

The growing SEND crisis is sadly no surprise for us at CfEY. Research we carried out in 2021, which included interviewing a broad range of educationalists, including MAT CEOs, headteachers, children’s service directors, and senior DfE civil servants, found that addressing SEND issues was not seen as an immediate priority.

Read the press release here.

Many children with complex needs waiting years for a stable home, Ofsted finds

A new report by Ofsted has revealed that more than nine in 10 local authorities frequently struggle to find a stable home for children with complex needs in a process that can often take years. Ofsted found that many children live alone in homes with high levels of staff, leaving them vulnerable to mistreatment and isolation. The report calls for reform of the children’s residential sector, including greater strategic oversight, to ensure there are enough homes for children, in the right locations, and with appropriate support in place in each.

Read the full report here.

Faculty for Public Health publishes new report on ‘Good Food for Children’

With a coalition of charities and health organisations, The Faculty of Public Health (FPH) has published a new report calling on the government to offer free school meals for all primary and secondary school pupils in England. The report looked at three existing programmes designed to improve school-age children’s diet and health and has recommended the expansion of all three. The authors argue that improving access to the Free School Meal Programme, the National School Breakfast Programme, and the Healthy Start Voucher Scheme will improve attainment across the board and reduce the consequences of food insecurity for at-risk children.

Read the full report here.

Teach First research shows disadvantaged parents don’t see STEM as a viable career option 

Disadvantaged parents are dissuading their children from pursuing careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) occupations, as they believe these opportunities are already occupied, according to a survey by the charity Teach First. In addition to 750 parents, Teach First surveyed over 1,000 children aged 11 to 16 and found that only two-fifths (41.8%) of those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds said they would consider a STEM career. Over half of parents from lower socioeconomic backgrounds expressed skepticism about their children’s prospects in STEM careers, citing several barriers including lack of confidence, an absence of role models, and a perception that these careers are not meant for ‘somebody like them.’

The survey also highlights the shortage of specialist STEM teachers in England, particularly in disadvantaged areas, pointing to the need to recruit and retain high-quality STEM teachers, especially in schools facing the biggest challenges. In response, a spokesperson from the Department of Education pointed to the bursaries and scholarships of up to £30,000 offered for chemistry, computing, mathematics, and physics teachers and the tax waivers for teachers serving in disadvantaged schools.

STEM progression is an issue we’re currently working on at CfEY. Alongside Mission 44, we’re exploring the enablers and barriers influencing pupils’ STEM outcomes and career aspirations across high-, mid-, and low-performing schools. 

Read the full article here.

That’s all for this week! If you found this blog useful, please be sure to share/tweet it and follow @theCfEY, @Barristotle and @conorcarleton for future editions.