I’ve attended a number of events to talk about the link between poverty and educational attainment.
By Natasha Davies, Chwarae Teg Policy Partner. Follow on Twitter: @daviesna2.
The battle to break this link has been going on for years but is has come back into the spotlight following Education Minister Huw Lewis’ announcement that it is a top priority for Welsh Government.
One thing that became clear at the events is that there is a danger for poverty to be spoken about in isolation.
Programmes within schools that focus on raising the attainment of children entitled to free school meals will have some success in breaking the link but to be truly effective the issue has to be considered within the wider social context and alongside the skills agenda.
21% of people in Wales are classed as living in poverty. The causes of poverty are varied and complex but persistent low pay and low hours are a significant problem.
For women, this is even more apparent. They are more likely to work in these sorts of jobs and it is often their income that will decide whether a family is living in poverty or not ( Women’s Budget Group, 2005 ).
A wider conversation about the link between poverty and attainment.
When we consider this alongside the fact that the educational achievements and qualifications of the mother have the most significant impact on the aspirations and attainment of a child, it becomes clear that action to tackle women’s poverty in the long term should be an important element of the wider conversation about the link between poverty and attainment.
This is where the skills agenda becomes so important. Despite some progress women continue to be concentrated into a small number of occupations and industries, often in sectors where pay is low and there is little chance of progression.
To address this it is vital that action is taken in schools, through education and careers advice, to ensure that girls are not being steered towards stereotypical career paths, but are encouraged to look at those industries that have traditionally been dominated by men.
By raising aspirations and opening routes into these industries we will enable women to access better paid and more secure employment, which can help to break cycles of poverty.
I think it is clear that the skills and poverty agendas are inextricably linked and it important that this is remembered.
It is only through programmes that consider these issues in tandem that the link between poverty and educational attainment can be broken.