Poverty & Education: APPG Poverty workshop with Young People

Posted on 13 Sep 2013 under Children's Voices, Previous Publications

During May 2013, working with 399 young people from around the UK, KidsCo, the NUT and CPAG asked young people what they thought about the costs of going to school, and how these affected young people from low-income households. The young people they spoke to raised seven key concerns:

  • Many students from lower income households said they did not study the creative subjects they want because of the price. Subjects that require extra resources, especially photography, art, textiles, design and technology, and food technology, were frequently cited as subjects that students on free school meals felt unable to take.
  • The price of food left many young people hungry during the school day. Young people who receive free school meals reported being less hungry than their low-income peers who do not receive free school meals, but many still felt hungry during the school day.
  • Many young people reported missing school trips because they were too expensive. They said that this had a big impact on their ability to socialise and make friends, as well as missing out on curriculum.
  • Many young people were unable to afford the cost of a full uniform, and said that this often meant they got in trouble or felt different from their peers.
  • Many young people could not afford an important piece of school equipment, like books, revision notes or stationary, because of the cost. Many students also said they didn’t have adequate space at home to study.
  • Some young people did not have access to computers or the internet because of the costs. This made it hard to do homework.
  • Many young people did not participate in after-school clubs that they wanted to because of the price, either because of the costs of the club itself or the costs of transport to the club.

Having identified these concerns, the APPG on poverty – working with 28 young people who took part in the research – hosted a deliberative workshop in June to develop policy solutions to the seven problems identified. The idea was to get young people and decision makers working together to identify what needs to happen to address these seven concerns.

The workshop was entirely hosted and led by young people, who both chaired the overall session and managed small group discussions to brainstorm solutions to each of the specific problems identified in the research. Some 28 young people, aged between 11 and 19, worked met with over 25 ‘policy makers’ to deliberate over and agree a set of recommendations at the workshop.

Some recommendations included:

  • Schools should provide equipment so that every student can do any subject
  • Breakfast clubs should be place in every school
  • Address the cost of travel with a government sponsored mini bus in every school
  • Discourage schools from changing uniforms regularly
  • Offer more grants for software, books and equipment
  • Maybe businesses and school could offer used computers to needy children at good prices
  • Get football teams to help the community, maybe by running after school clubs

Many decision makers commented on how great the workshop was, and that it was fantastic to see young people take control of an APPG for an afternoon. Many of the young people outlined that it was a great experience to talk through their concerns with decision makers face-to-face. But the real test ahead is to see if any of the issues these young people outlined are addressed systemically in the coming years.

The report, summarising the research and the outlining the recommendations developed though deliberation with the APPG, will be available on the APPG website by the end of September.

Two young men’s introductory speech:

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are here today to talk about children’s rights to an education. Today we will be talking about two issues from the seven in the report.

The first issue we’ll talk about is Uniforms. This report found that not every pupil could afford a uniform. This major controversy is vitally important, because it affect pupil’s lives in some way.

Students quoted that in school they get bullied by the people who can afford a nice uniform. An unknown student quoted that in his school, his life is a misery because other people think that he is a poor person who has no money and think that he should be bullied.

The next issue we will address is lunch money. The report suggests that an important consideration is the price of food. These disadvantaged students are not concentrating in class and skipping lunch because they can’t afford it.

Some people try to persuade you that every child in the UK enjoys their rights, but the people who told you that are not informing you correctly. If you want to know the actual truth of the UK, listen carefully.

Many pupils outlined that they couldn’t afford lunch, so they grew skinnier and they were losing their concentration. That’s really bad.

If you agree with us, please come and work in our workshops to learn more.

Thank you for listening, we appreciate it.

IMG_0259Rys Farthing is a Research Fellow at the Department of Social Policy and Intervention, University of Oxford.

Her research interests include child poverty, youth participation and youthful politics. Her current research is participatory, and aims to develop child poverty policy working with young people living in financially deprived areas. She is a graduate of the University of Melbourne and the London School of Economics.