In the biggest survey ever done with young people to find out your views on poverty and education in Scotland, almost 1,000 of you gave a clear message: lack of money puts up barriers to learning that hold pupils back, prevent you from having a fair chance at school and affect your life chances in the future.
Talking about how the stress of living in poverty can make it hard to do well at school unless you get the right support, one young person said “It’s like the way you grow up that makes you want to learn, or what kind of person you are as well. So [if] you’re growing up, like, in an environment where everybody helps you and that, like supports you and that, then you’re going to have a good future. But if you don’t then it’s not really going to be a good future”.
The secondary pupils from across Scotland who took part in this research by SCCYP and Save the Children talked about how not having enough money made it hard to get a range of basic things needed for learning. One pupil said “School uniform, getting food, going places with friends, money, finding a good house to live –you need a good house to keep you warm. Getting food and water, paying the bills, to be able to go out and spend lots of money and buy things that you want. But basics like housing, they are maybe too dear. Pens, pencils and paper.”
The expense of school uniform was a big deal for a lot of you: “For single parents as well, because my ma’s like, just a single parent. And like it’s hard because I have got my big sister, my wee brother and she has to pay for all of yous [to get uniform]”.
Young people affected by poverty also talked about having to do without other important things that help with learning, like going on school trips, or being able to buy textbooks or equipment needed to take part in design and technology classes or home economics or music lessons. Not having a computer at home to use for homework was also a common issue, as was not getting enough support with home study – especially in families where the parents had jobs where they worked long hours or because they had not had good learning chances themselves as kids. Looking ahead to the future, half of the pupils surveyed thought that not having much money did impact on whether young people went on to further study or training after leaving school.
Support that helps
In the research, young people had lots to say about the support that can help pupils whose learning is affected by poverty. Classroom teachers, guidance teachers, learning support teachers and home-school link workers were all mentioned as people that were really important in supporting pupils to do well at school and in the future: “Like your teachers and, like, your guidey. Because, like at the end of the day they’re the ones that can help you get a job. They’re the ones that gives you a good reference when you leave here.”
As well teachers, young people talked about other forms of school support that they found helpful, like homework and study clubs in lunch breaks and after school; help with buying school uniforms for parents on benefits; counselling; free school lunches; financial help to go on school trips; resources for dyslexia and other support needs; free out-of-school activities; more support for parents so they can help with homework; and school libraries with internet access.
You can view the full report, Learning Lessons: Young People’s Views on Poverty and Education in Scotland, here. Congrats to the 885 pupils who did the survey, the 64 of you who took part in focus-groups, and of course the six young people from Save the Children’s Young Leaders programme who did the research with the focus groups.