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Why do poorer students achieve less?

11:15 UK time, Sunday, 19 September 2010

The educational achievement gap between the poorest and richest pupils is widening, BBC presenter John Humphrys has been visiting schools in England to find out why. How can the gap be reduced?

According to the Education Secretary Michael Gove, "Rich, thick kids do better than poor, clever children, and when they arrive at school...the situation as they go through gets worse." Education charity The Sutton Trust says their research backs up this claim -and that there is no other advanced country in the world where the gap in performance between state and private schools is so large.

In "Unequal Opportunities," John Humphrys investigates different attempts to close this gap, including mentoring programmes, stricter levels of discipline, longer school opening hours and cultural visits.

Why does the gap between the richest and poorest children continue to grow? How would you make education more equal? Would longer hours and more cultural visits help? Or is better discipline the answer?

You can watch Unequal Opportunities on BBC Two on Monday 20 September at 2100 BST.

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.

Comments

Page 1 of 5

  • Comment number 1.

    Probably because their poorer use of the English language, because they are poorer, precludes them from jobs as journalists in the BBC.

  • Comment number 2.

    Some are born with greatness, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them. University education seems to be the be all, and end all for our young. Bring back structured careers advice in school, and stop filling our young's heads with ideas they can never hope to achieve. We need grafters not doers to make Britain great again.

  • Comment number 3.

    Poorer students are written off by the establishment, it's as simple as that. "He (or she) comes from a poor family, therefore there's no point wasting time teaching them - they'll only end up on the dole anyway"
    When this attitude is changed and people recognise the potential in everyone, then perhaps we might see some amazing transformations.
    The gap in performance between State and Private schools in due mainly to the fact that the latter have a longer teaching day. State schools finish at 3:00, so taking into account lunch breaks etc the State sector teaches for about 4 hours a day. Private schools teach for at least another 2.

  • Comment number 4.

    Michael Gove, nuf said mate, no wot a meen yeah.

  • Comment number 5.

    I can see the day — coming pretty soon — where you'll have to need a University degree just to do a menial job. So much for Mr Blair's education, education, education philosophy.

  • Comment number 6.

    Parents. If your wealthy it usually suggests that your parents are highly educated and in high paying roles. You therefore have someone to go to for advice or someone there to beat you back into line in order to achieve.

    I have a working class mother and a high flying father. My mother will be happy if I am happy but my father really looks down on low-paying deadend jobs.

    Perhaps I my position is not that much different to others or maybe I am different but thats all I can say on the matter.

    Oh, the rich can also afford many more book and after school teachers to help their children.

    If your poor you should prioritise your spending. I understand that some can't afford anything anyway but for those who can I would suggest not to spend money on computer games and INVEST something for your children.

    You only get one shot of success or your forced to play catch-up later in life.

  • Comment number 7.

    It's probably genetic. If your parents aren't that bright, they are less likely to get a good job and so more likely to be poor. They will also be more likely to produce less bright children.

    It's a vicious cycle and I doubt that there's anything that can be done about it.

    Oh, well, never mind. Someone's got to pick up litter.

  • Comment number 8.

    the answer is easy the children of less well of families
    are put in large multicultral schools which tend to put more emphises
    on teaching subjects that do not help english students
    teachers make students learn more via the internet than teaching skills

  • Comment number 9.

    "Why do poorer students achieve less?"

    Scrapping by the Labour Party of the Grammar/Secondary Modern/Technical schools system in the 1960's. Compounded by the Thatcher and Blair governments obssession with creating new 'universities' and filling them with a totally unnecessary number of school leavers who could more profitably spend their further education elsewhere - doing apprenticeships, learning on the job etc.

    The Grammar/Secondary Modern/Technical system wasn't without its faults - excessive per capita expenditure on Grammar Schools compared to the other schools and the almost total lack of Technical schools in most catchment areas being the most glaring faults. However, the Labour governments of the 1960's, instead of correcting this as they should have done by building more Technical and Secondary Moderns (the latter best called 'Commercial Schools' maybe) and equalising the per capita spend, decided, for entirely doctrinaire reasons, to replace the whole shebang with the 'one-size-fits-all' comprehensive system. Which has done no-one any favours.

  • Comment number 10.

    teachers fail english students as they have to many students
    who english is a second language,
    teachers make education boring as they make students do too much homework via the internet and not in the class room
    private education wins because they carter to teaching students skills
    which help them get into universities and get worthwhile employment not being multicultral no hopers in state schools which let english students down,

  • Comment number 11.

    As a parent of children of the welfare state who would be classed as poor. We have 2 daughters currently attending university. 1 at Anglia Ruskin Cambridge & 1 at Norwich University College of Arts. They achieved 14 & 13 GCSEs at grades A-C & 3 A-Levels. We also have a son who is doing GCSEs this year who is expected to attain them at levels A-C also. We believe that if children are encouraged to follow education it will be achieved wether they are from poor or priviledged backgrounds

  • Comment number 12.

    PARENTS PARENTS PARENTS

    Studies have shown that Chinese and Indian kids achieve similar grades and results whatever their income/class - the values of education are brought down from generation to generation as essential, presumably because in their countries of origin education is NOT free, and hardship is guaranteed if you are not successful.

    That's why.

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    We live in a society that through the media celebrates ignorance and bad behaviour.Children are bombarded daily with so called celebraties who cannot even speak properly.They are given the impression that to have an education is to be a wimp.Add that to the fact that anything that requires effort does not bring instant success.Why have pride in yourselves when the state will look after you from cradle to grave.If you do lift yourself out of the pit the government try to rob you of you money to waste on silly idears.Last of all as polititians have meddled more and more over the years with our education system.Like everything else in this country it has gone to pot.

  • Comment number 15.

    Poorer students often come from a culturally impoverished background.

  • Comment number 16.

    Why do poorer.....? because their parents are poor and therefore not as clever as rich people. It is in the genes.

  • Comment number 17.

    Perhaps the answer is staring us in the face. What if money makes you clever?

    This line of reasoning may be open to question, and is certainly controversial, but it doesn't mean that it's not true. The statistics can support the argument.

  • Comment number 18.

    Surely, part of the debate on education must be 'behaviour'. Schools in 1950/60s (when I went to school) expected children to be physically 'still'; to be polite; to contribute as directed. These are basic skills which children learned in the home, before going to school. Without them, there is disruption in the classroom, an inability to 'listen' and a restlessness that obstructs learning. So if the home no longer teaches these tenets to pre-school children - what happened to basic parenting? It's nothing to do with disadvantage because the poorest families used to turn out bright and attentive children. So we must look at what has distracted parents from learning THEIR skills. The professionals will get it right, after that.

  • Comment number 19.

    Maybe the fact that the parents may be of low IQ , poor teaching, and lack of parental guidance has more of a bearing on their educational results than being " poor " . Considering the numbers of people who achieved fame and fortune in the early part of the 20th century and before, when poverty meant poverty, not the state handout conceived poverty of today, being poor is not part of the equation. Maybe the fact that they are brought up in an environment that sets ambition as an appearance on Jeremy Kyle or a place in the Big Brother house, where literacy is not a requirement on the way to fame and fortune, is much more of a factor in the lack of achievement.

  • Comment number 20.

    Why do poorer students achieve less? Perhaps because their only aspiration is to work at the BBC.

  • Comment number 21.

    Weathier children have access to activities outside school: extra lessons, gym clubs, drama clubs, music lessons, tutors if they're struggling. Poorer children do not because their parents can't afford it. Weathier parents know how to play the system; poor parents do not.

    It really is as simple as that.

  • Comment number 22.

    In poorer familys there is generally less aspiration and much less parental responsibility in providing aspiration to a better life.

    Also, just look at so many of those seeking fame and fortune via the X Factor or other such things and you will gain an insight into the endemic self deception delusional world so many live in.

    My own belief is that they are actually from planet Zogg because its just so hard to believe that this planet could create such numptys within the timeframe of 5 billion years.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    Underprivileged students need the advantages of scholarships, loans, and grants to attend colleges and universities. Their education improves language and technical skills. Companies hire employees who require little training and demonstrate strong motivation.

  • Comment number 25.

    90% of bacckbenchers come from "public" (ie. private - english doublespeak) schools - ask them!

  • Comment number 26.

    I suspect it has very little to do with wealth and a lot to do with parental education and attitudes to education. Well educated parents, who tend to therefore be wealthier, will pass on the importance of education and knowledge to their children, expose them to arts and literature and the joys of learning. Celyn, (No 21) may cynically think of this as 'playing the system', I would just describe it as good parenting.

    None of these things really require a lot of money. If you look back to my parents' generation (those who grew up in the fifties and sixties), a lot of them were poor but their parents valued education and they made the most of the opportunities available to them. Those opportunities are still there (probably more so) but the current generation of the poor don't seem to want to take them.

  • Comment number 27.

    Bring back selection purely on ability - ie Grammar Schools, thus allowing the brightest children from any backround to move onwards & upwards. Introduce lower academic levels and more vocational subjects for the others. Comprehensive schools set UK education back by decades.

    In fact we have never recovered and now, in an attempt to make themselves look good, sucessive Governments constantly interfere and simply treat the symptoms not the cause. They fiddle entrance criteria, drop exam pass levels etc. and put thousands into Uni by making them appear to be clever. Most drop out and many that don't get degrees that are useless for the working environment - just ask employers. Immigrants brought in to fill UK technical jobs. What is going on?

    UK education is falling further & further behind, as all the latest reports show.

  • Comment number 28.

    "How can the gap be reduced?"

    by moving from a class-ridden system to a truly egalitarian society.

  • Comment number 29.

    Once again correlation does not indicate causality.

    I was from a poor family. Yet, that actually helped me. I had no option other than to study hard and succeed.
    However, I was also in extreme luck because
    1- I had excellent parents with unconditional love doing everything in their power to help me. Not much, perhaps, but everything they can do.
    2- I was in a free education system, where we didn't have to pay a pence. You get into exams, prove you're good, you get the next level of education free.

    It's not poverty alone that's the problem. Of course, it helps being in a rich family. But poverty is not a show-stopped in a truly meritrocratic education system.

  • Comment number 30.

    Education Secretary Michael Gove, "Rich, thick kids do better than poor, clever children, and when they arrive at school...the situation as they go through gets worse."

    ---

    I think Gove here is talking out of the chip on his shoulder. He has done well coming from an underprivileged background. But that does not give him the right to claim to know who is "thick" and who is "clever".

    Rich kids = thick. Poor kids = clever.
    Such stereotypes will not help one iota to poor kids. I have seen in my lecturer past many street smart kids thinking that they have got it all. They have not. They were hopeless when it came to thinking in abstract domains.

    Gove should do his job instead of acting as a walking IQ-meter.

  • Comment number 31.

    It is of no coincidence that pupils from more disadvantaged and/or poorer backgrounds attend schools which have more spoken languages than you can shake a visa at. Childhood is confusing enough without being surrounded by different dialects and cultures in your own country.

    We all know who to blame for that, boys and girls.

  • Comment number 32.

    Why does the gap between the richest and poorest children continue to grow?

    Because welfare system has evolved from a safety net to an uncomfortable but life-long bed.
    We live in a system that allows you a life-long support if only you can have some children. You don't have to work at all.

    How would you make education more equal?

    Get the money element out of the system. Free education for those who are willing. If they are willing, they have to show it; preferably by not causing distubance in the class.

    Would longer hours and more cultural visits help?

    Longer hours yes. But what has cultural visits to do with the whole problem? Getting rid of softy liberals that come up with such pointless ideas will help a lot.

    Or is better discipline the answer?

    ABSOLUTELY !!!!!!!!!!!!
    But politicians don't like admitting it. It's not a vote winner.

  • Comment number 33.

    "
    21. At 1:41pm on 19 Sep 2010, Celyn wrote:

    Weathier children have access to activities outside school: extra lessons, gym clubs, drama clubs, music lessons, tutors if they're struggling. Poorer children do not because their parents can't afford it. Weathier parents know how to play the system; poor parents do not.
    "

    "Wealthier" parents tend to be more educated than their poorer, Oprah Winfrey watching counterparts, and as such, value their children's education more highly. This results in those parents spending more time, effort and money on ensuring a decent education for their children, where as poorer parents, for a lot of different reasons, would not.

  • Comment number 34.

    Perhaps genes have got something to do with it.

  • Comment number 35.

    I don't know how many times we have been asked this question. Is this a test of our patience?
    To me, the answer is self-evident:
    Rich kids get more opportunities with better quality - everything from private mentoring to travel abroad.
    Poor kids usually get two working parents (too tired to deal with them one-on-one) and limited oppotunities for extra learning exposure.
    Yes, the educational achievement gap between the poorest and richest pupils is widening. When it can be said that "Rich, thick kids do better than poor, clever children...", it is a clarion call to the waste of talent that starts as "clever".
    Britain should be shocked that there is no other advanced country in the world where the gap in performance between state and private schools is so large. In "Unequal Opportunities," John Humphrys investigates different attempts to close this gap, including
    - mentoring programmes (Same quality as rich kids?),
    - stricter levels of discipline (Is this really the problem?),
    - longer school opening hours (Great! Let's punish the clever little blochs!) and
    - cultural visits (Same as rich kids?).
    Did BBC presenter John Humphrys inadvertantly select "Unequal Opportunities" - some sort of reference to "Equal Opportunities (Yes Minister)"? "Equal Opportunities" which has been running since November 11, 1982. Is there a suggestion that it will take 28 years to address this inequality? 28 years is a generation.

  • Comment number 36.

    16. At 1:11pm on 19 Sep 2010, Graham wrote:
    Why do poorer.....? because their parents are poor and therefore not as clever as rich people. It is in the genes.

    --

    Over-simplification. It's not the first time people have suggested this. You would be right if you could prove that every rich&clever man/woman marries to a clever woman/man. This is far from the case.
    Besides, wealth is a poor indicator of intelligence. I have known many people who did well financially by working hard doing jobs that does not really need intelligence. I would say wealth is a better indicator of hardwork and responsible lifestyle.

  • Comment number 37.

    "
    22. At 1:42pm on 19 Sep 2010, MrWonderfulReality wrote:
    "

    Good point.

  • Comment number 38.

    Intelligence has nothing to do with academic ability. Being streetwise for example is something most "posh" kids have no clue about, yet the poor "rudeboys" couldn't read Shakespeare. What is the criteria for success? Is it the amount of money you have? Is it the amount of qualifications you have? Is it the amount of love you have and give?
    Paris Hilton is "successful" but hasn't got a brain cell in her head. What I don't understand though is why poor parents don't read bedtime stories to their kids, take an interest in their school life, be pushy like their middle-class counterparts? None of this costs money. Perhaps it is an inconvenient truth that as a stereotype they are poor not because of lack of opportunities but because they are feckless and thick? And this role-modelling is transferred down to the kids.

  • Comment number 39.

    Personally, I'm very divided on this issue as I had very 'absent' parents who had no interest in being engaged as parents as we appreciate those standards today.

    What I mean is, my childhood through 50s and 60s, was about waking up alone, going to school alone and coming home alone with a key on a ribbon around my neck. Tomato sauce sandwiches and milk every day, I happily made myself and went to bed with no adult present and knew nothing else. Sadly, I was ridiculed at school because my clothes were not clean and nobody at 'home' cared if I washed or brushed my teeth, even when they were there. So what am I getting at?

    Now, what I am thankful for, were the two teachers at my infant and primary schools who recognised by 'ability'(?) to learn and love language and reading. Thank God for them. Why? Because without them teaching me good basic literacy - I could not have educated MYSELF out of my disgusting situation eventually.

    So back to the question: There are many barriers to education for 'poor' children - not least WHERE you are born and possibly the family you are born into? It may be about poverty - but bright people are born into poverty too?

    Some children are held back by parents who can't read or write and are unable to engage in their child's homework because they can't admit they can't read or write? So, let's bang that stigma out of our society by encouraging parents to learn literacy and be proud!

    Some children are held back because of their gender, or other reasons?

    However, 'POVERTY' in Britain is complex. It's never, ever just been about money - it's ultimately about opportunity for the infants attending State education to be read with, read to and taught to write and read at the earliest opportunity BEFORE anything else.

    Too many children are left at the starting gate during infant and primary education - that has to stop, because they rarely catch up and often are so frustrated they cause the most disruption simply because, inside, they want to learn, but have been denied the BASIS of the steam roller that State educations is?




  • Comment number 40.

    the answer is easy the children of less well of families
    are put in large multicultral schools which tend to put more emphises
    on teaching subjects that do not help english students
    teachers make students learn more via the internet than teaching skills

    ------
    Presumably where the use of upper case letters, a dictionary and punctuation marks are also banned!

    The real reason is of course blindingly obvious and has nothing to do with multiculturalism or the lack of it.

    Fee paying schools have a pupil teacher ratio on average 4 times lower than in state schools around 7 or 8 students per member of qualified teaching staff compared to 30+ in state schools.


    Additionally resources (money) per student are around 4 times the level in private schools compared to state schools.

    It also helps that when, even with all these advantages, you happen to come across the odd upper class twit it doesn't pose a problem as the teachers will "help" them to pass the exams any way!

    If we funded and staffed state schools at similar levels we would see similar academic results.

  • Comment number 41.

    Less support and guidance from parents. Less of expectation of achievement.

    Experience suggests throwing money at poor students doesn't make a difference.

  • Comment number 42.

    At 2:34pm on 19 Sep 2010, rjimmer wrote:
    Perhaps genes have got something to do with it.

    ---------
    Do you mean Jeans?

    Only if they are stuffed with enough money to buy a fee paying education.

  • Comment number 43.

    42. At 3:18pm on 19 Sep 2010, steve wrote:
    At 2:34pm on 19 Sep 2010, rjimmer wrote:
    Perhaps genes have got something to do with it.

    ---------
    Do you mean Jeans?

    Only if they are stuffed with enough money to buy a fee paying education.
    _________________________________________________________________________

    No Steve I think in certian section's of society Jeans are beleived to have led to the downfall of Society. Having been the favoured dress code of Youth Culture, Rock and Roll, Drugs user's and Librals.

    The other Genes. Just determine how rich your Parents are.

  • Comment number 44.

    Bradford@41 is right, there are no bad children only bad parents or rather bad and uneducated children come from bad parents who are victims of their parents. And RandomArbiter@12 has a point, Oriental parents set great store by their children's education. A hawker in Malaysia would go without so that she or he may send their children to the best schools in the U.K.

  • Comment number 45.

    13. At 1:04pm on 19 Sep 2010, Neil wrote:

    5. At 12:30pm on 19 Sep 2010, Dai the Tie wrote:
    "I can see the day — coming pretty soon — where you'll have to need a University degree just to do a menial job. So much for Mr Blair's education, education, education philosophy."

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------

    That would mean we would have a literate and well Educated society
    I cannot for the life of me see anything wrong with that.


    But everyone who goes to University has been told the lie that they will get a well paid and interesting career when they graduate. Imagine their horror when, having got into debt to the tune of £25k, they have to work in a call centre or flip burgers for a job.

  • Comment number 46.

    The average amount spent by the state on educating each child is only a fraction of that spent by parents who can afford private schooling.

    Nevertheless, some state schools do a better job than some private schools. Probably because private schools necessarily concentrate on pandering to the prejudices of parents, rather than to the real needs of their pupils.

    Gordon Brown once promised to bring spending on state pupils up to the level of private spending. But most voters apparently would prefer that the rich should not have to pay the taxes that this would require.


  • Comment number 47.

    Experience suggests that throwing money at poor students dosent make a difference.
    So keep the poorer students in run down crumbling schools with second rate teachers in a deprived area
    Equally keep the parents in a deprived area with dead end poorly paid jobs as throwing money at the parents dosent make a difference either
    Then throw money into counties like Surrey with the leafy roads and regular bus services where it is a pleasure to travel to work in a company that has located in the countryside near Leatherhead and just watch those cherubs attain high levels in academic qualifications and evolve into university students
    Yes your right of course throwing money at the problem dosent show any significant difference to the situation does it

  • Comment number 48.

    It is (probably unknowingly to the parents) their fault, but also the State school system.
    During the 1960s there was a BBC TV series “Seven Up”. A group of children, half from professional families and half from very ordinary working class families were interviewed. They were later followed through at ages 14, 21, 28, 35 – then contacts were lost for some of the group.

    The children from the professional families, at age seven, said proudly “I want to be a doctor” or “I am going to study at King’s College in Cambridge”. “I want to be a scientist”. There was no doubt in their voices. Ideas about getting an “ordinary job” had never been put into their heads – those jobs were never on their list. Those jobs did not even exist for them.

    Those children were not protected from school tests “in case it over-stresses them”

    The children from “ordinary families” who were in State schools said: “I want to be a bus driver”, "I want to work on a building site”. They were playing on the floor with toys, or were interested in dolls or football. The professional jobs were never on their list - those jobs did not exist for them.

    The parents of such children worry that school tests will “over-stress” their children.

    The State school system is geared to ensure the majority of the children do not do too well to upset the balance – after all, someone has to drive the buses or work on building sites – the country would collapse without those people. It is just unfortunate for them that they were born into the wrong families. Their parents probably never mentioned the better jobs hard work would bring.

    The children from the richer families supply the need for the 5% top jobs.

    What is more, children from professional families are told that they will be the leaders in society.
    The children in State schools are told that they must do what they are told so psychologically, those children expect always to be led.

    It is true a few from State schools go on to do well, maybe in business – but business is not linked to being bright academically.

  • Comment number 49.

    47. At 3:51pm on 19 Sep 2010, I_amStGeorge wrote:

    Experience suggests that throwing money at poor students dosent make a difference.
    So keep the poorer students in run down crumbling schools with second rate teachers in a deprived area
    Equally keep the parents in a deprived area with dead end poorly paid jobs as throwing money at the parents dosent make a difference either
    Then throw money into counties like Surrey with the leafy roads and regular bus services where it is a pleasure to travel to work in a company that has located in the countryside near Leatherhead and just watch those cherubs attain high levels in academic qualifications and evolve into university students
    Yes your right of course throwing money at the problem dosent show any significant difference to the situation does it


    No, it doesn't.

  • Comment number 50.

    Money talks!

  • Comment number 51.

    45. At 3:48pm on 19 Sep 2010, Magi Tatcher wrote:
    13. At 1:04pm on 19 Sep 2010, Neil wrote:

    5. At 12:30pm on 19 Sep 2010, Dai the Tie wrote:
    "I can see the day — coming pretty soon — where you'll have to need a University degree just to do a menial job. So much for Mr Blair's education, education, education philosophy."

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------

    That would mean we would have a literate and well Educated society
    I cannot for the life of me see anything wrong with that.

    "But everyone who goes to University has been told the lie that they will get a well paid and interesting career when they graduate. Imagine their horror when, having got into debt to the tune of £25k, they have to work in a call centre or flip burgers for a job."

    You left out my comment that a University Education is like a Penis in that its not what you've got but how you use it.

  • Comment number 52.

    When you come from a family where there is no work ethic, and your father & grand father before him, have spent their whole lives on the dole, and who have no interests in life other than what they can consume, or see on the TV - what hope does such a child have of doing well anywhere, never mind at university?

    Many children come from schools where their course work has been dumbed down to a level that they can't catch up at University level, especially if they have been given their place without having to earn it against strong scholastic competition. I think that at todays standards it is a miracle for any working class child to do well in a university.

  • Comment number 53.

    " How can the gap be reduced ? "
    Give poor people more money, or rich people less money, it used to be called the redistribution of wealth by the Lib-Dems.

  • Comment number 54.

    Throwing money at it and blaming the schools is a waste of time. Labour have been doing it for 13 years without much success. The cause lies in the homes of "poorer" children. Ill-educated parents, transient fathers and life on a sink estate will see a child's future damned by the age of three. Some will rise above their background, most won't.

    Labour also threw money at the parents and what good has that done? It's a cultural and social thing on which neither the Government nor the schools have much influence.

    Looking at different systems of education, there is one proven system where OVERALL there is greater social mobility within the schools system, and that was the Grammar Schools, but for reasons which are largely class prejudice (Labour & Lib Dems) or class guilt (Conservatives) no national party supports them. Instead we get initiative piled upon initiative but they won't look at the one system that works.

  • Comment number 55.

    This is very insulting to those of modest income who try their best for their kids. Supportive parent, A good school and library access is all a child needs to do well.

    This is just an observation, but in the rush to get mums "back to work" a lot of kids dont get the after school attention they need, help with homework, listening to them read.

    Ironically You would think the kids with the best chance would be those with benefit parents who are home all day.

    Lazy Brit way is to expect the school and teachers to do all the nurturing, parents are just there to put them to bed and spoil.

    No wonder school, college and uni leavers have a poor work ethic when hard work is not encouraged at an early age.

  • Comment number 56.

    If the establishment needs to ask such a question when the answer is so blatantly obvious, then it demonstrates that they are even further out of touch with reality and the citizens of the UK than I thought!
    Young people who have to do other jobs in order to finance their learning. The knowledge that they could (should?) be out there in the real world doing a "proper" job. The constant worry that any overspending in one area would result in a shortfall of some kind in another.
    These are things that I, when I was a student from a poor family worried about. I am now 64, and the UK establishment has only moved further towards an elitist attitude than when I was 18.

  • Comment number 57.

    There is no point in beating about the bush on this issue. Success at school can only be acheived if a child is encouraged and helped at home. A home with books as well as intellegent parents will obviously help children immeasurably at school. Sadly, there are many kids who come from a background where they have known nothing but a life on benefits. Why study?, why work hard? the result is the same, it will be the same future lifestyle. It is a fact of life that the poorest families in countries like Sri Lanka or India will do everything possible for their children so that they will have a better life in the future.

  • Comment number 58.

    "26. At 2:00pm on 19 Sep 2010, qwerty wrote:
    Well educated parents, who tend to therefore be wealthier, will pass on the importance of education and knowledge to their children, expose them to arts and literature and the joys of learning. Celyn, (No 21) may cynically think of this as 'playing the system', I would just describe it as good parenting. "

    No, querty, that's not at all what "playing the system" means. Playing the system is moving house to gain access to a better school, paying for a private tutor so your child passes exams. It's knowing how to gain a statement for your child's special need or dyslexia, it's knowing how to manipulate schools and teachers and push, push, pushing to gain the advantages for your child. Most poorer parents don't even know where to start.


  • Comment number 59.

    7. At 12:38pm on 19 Sep 2010, AndyC555 wrote:
    It's probably genetic. If your parents aren't that bright, they are less likely to get a good job and so more likely to be poor. They will also be more likely to produce less bright children.

    It's a vicious cycle and I doubt that there's anything that can be done about it.

    Oh, well, never mind. Someone's got to pick up litter.
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    I take it you are speaking from first hand experience AndyC555? I suggest you read the article again and then make a constrtuctive comment rather than spout such nonsense.

    ----------------------------------------------

    16. At 1:11pm on 19 Sep 2010, Graham wrote:
    Why do poorer.....? because their parents are poor and therefore not as clever as rich people. It is in the genes.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Really? What proof do you have? My parents are relatively poor and always were, just making enough to get by and to ensure they were not a burden to society when they retired.
    I wanted to be a Research Scientist when I was at school, but according to an incompetent 'Specialist' in the '70's I was not bright enough. He conveniently chose to ignore that I had to attend 3 separate Secondary schools (two of which were former Grammar Schools) and suffered bullying at school (as we had to move areas and so I spoke 'funny') which was the reason I would often skip certain lessons (his opinion was I made up the bullying to cover the fact I could not do the work). [Another thing that I always found strange was that I wanted to go to a Technical Secondary School, but the nearest to where I lived was about 20 miles away - their excuse was something to do with travelling - despite the fact there was a school bus that passed through our village. Didn't seem to be a problem for a local rich person who lived on the edge of the village and their child (who was regarded as a bit of a village idiot) who was in my year at the village primary school though].
    I Still achieved high 'O' levels in all three Sciences and Math's and an 'O' Level equivalent in Technical Drawing. Thanks to his interfering, instead of going on to Uni, I started work at 16. It was only after leaving the forces when I was in my late 20's and going back to College, I found out that I actually had an IQ that puts me in the top 3%. On the back of the Engineering Qualifications I achieved (an HND of 28 units, most of which were Merits or Distinction passes) I was offered the chance of doing a Masters Degree in Engineering, but being *POOR* meant I had to return to work.

    People with your attitude I find, are the very same that have benefited from the 'who you know, not what you know' networks (the ones particular to rich people) - You may have gone to the right schools and uni and got your degree, but the only reason you have the job you do is because who mummy or daddy knows that opens the door for you.
    For the record, I have met any number of rich people who think they are clever, just because they are rich. When in fact they are a danger, not only to themselves but everyone around them as they do not know how stupid they can be. And you still wonder why the country is going down the pan when these people are in charge - maybe they should let the *POOR* have a go at running things, they couldn't do any worse.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    To answer the question: The poor, no matter how clever they may be as children, will never get the breaks the rich enjoy, simply because they are poor. The rich operate a protectionist racket where education and jobs are concerned, the only way to break this is for all school children to sit the same tests whilst at primary school and a final test (similar to an 11+ or something) at the end of their final year at junior school. Then all the results are put together and names, addresses, gender etc. removed and places awarded solely on merit. When it comes to jobs the names, addresses, gender etc. to be removed from the applications and interviews awarded on Merit only.

  • Comment number 60.

    The home environment is crucial. Where parents spend time with their children, encourage them to read at home and to learn, 'bright' children should do well. This happens predominantly in higher-income households, but also to an extent in moderate-income households where there's a stable family with two parents of fairly high IQ.
    Low-income households are often those with a single parent with not enough time to devote to children's advancement, or parent(s) with low IQ and/or expect the state to do the job for them, or who give children lower priority than the TV/internet/booze/drugs/or whatever.
    Don't ask the education system to try to offset the effects of home environment. Differences in children's achievement reflect the differences within our society - it has always been so and always will be. Trying to change this by throwing more public money at it will be both wasteful and ineffective.

  • Comment number 61.

    If you're poor and you see others doing better than you, you won't aspire. And if your parents have more money, you'll have a better shot at a decent education.

  • Comment number 62.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 63.

    The only poverty in the UK is poverty of ambition, accepted by the lazy and stupid, and encouraged by the welfare state.

  • Comment number 64.

    I had a relative who often made me aware of the benefits of a wealthier parent. It wasn't really the wealth that made the difference it was the general up-bringing including passing on better advice and more worldly and sophisticated behaviour. Also the attitude of being a winner rather than a put upon loser. Less home distractions and an ability to be given space. A poor person who makes good must be exceptional.

  • Comment number 65.

    What??!! University's give better offers to those from 'underprivileged' backgrounds. If you are from a private school (I wasn't), the offer is usaully harder from one from a student from a state school student.
    I hardly claim to be 'working class down pit straight after 12th birthday lad', (my dad was a builder and my mum a secretary) but I worked blooming hard at school and got my reward with a placement doing Maths at Sheffield University.
    Poorer parents are usually unfortunately poorer for a reason. They probably would rather watch the X Factor or other such nonsense than read a book etc etc. This is obviously passed down to their children.
    I think instead of always looking to blame the system, people should be harsher and start looking at people's attitudes and work ethics...

  • Comment number 66.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 67.

    message 49 Magi Tatcher
    If by not throwing money at poorer areas of britain will still achieve high academic results Where are the recognised high learning acadamies that equal oxford, cambridge etc to be found in north of england how come the dont govt relocate its agencies equally throughout the north where is the increase in living allowance to be found up north where is the influx of poor londoners living up north where are the millions spent on infrastructure up north do we get a high speed rail link or an orbital ring road round say york englands second capital nowt wrong wi northerners but would you let your daughter marry one??

  • Comment number 68.

    "According to the Education Secretary Michael Gove, "Rich, thick kids do better than poor, clever children, and when they arrive at school...the situation as they go through gets worse."

    If this is an accurate quote I am amazed at its arrogance and do not believe it if taken literally. However, it is probably true that "rich kids" achieve more on average than "poor kids" of similar ability. Although the term "rich kids" is a generalisation that covers both the wealthy and those with parents who are themselves successful.

    It has always been like this. "Rich parents" can afford to provide more resources, more help, more one to one tuition, more opportunities during education. They also have more useful contacts to ensure that their offspring get places as better higher educational institutions and get better employment opportunities. They are also able to provide their offsping with a degree of confidence that makes them perform better at interviews, or provide better guidance on interviews, examinations, and similar experiences. Many can also afford to pay for private education which ensures the same advantages on a systematic scale.

    All of the above creates an inherent bias against "poor kids", but is it unfair? Not really. "Poor kids" will always have to fight harder to succeed, and its not as if the parents of "rich kids" are doing anything wrong.

    Certainly lack of discipline, lack of mentoring and school opening hours are factors. Access to the internet and libraries is another, none of which will be helped by the cuts. I also think that the increaed use of non-examination assessments also prove a cultural bias since "rich parents" are in a better position to help their offspring to deliver acceptable material for assessment.









  • Comment number 69.

    "The Sutton Trust says their research backs up this claim -and that there is no other advanced country in the world where the gap in performance between state and private schools is so large."

    Is this because the private schools are so much better than the rest of the world or because our state schools are so much worse?

    If it's the latter then we need a radical rethink on how we educate our children in this country as the comprehensive system just doesn't appear to be working despite the increase in exam grades year on year.

  • Comment number 70.

    67. At 5:15pm on 19 Sep 2010, I_amStGeorge wrote:

    message 49 Magi Tatcher
    If by not throwing money at poorer areas of britain will still achieve high academic results Where are the recognised high learning acadamies that equal oxford, cambridge etc to be found in north of england how come the dont govt relocate its agencies equally throughout the north where is the increase in living allowance to be found up north where is the influx of poor londoners living up north where are the millions spent on infrastructure up north do we get a high speed rail link or an orbital ring road round say york englands second capital nowt wrong wi northerners but would you let your daughter marry one??


    Sorry, I haven't a clue what you are on about.

  • Comment number 71.

    Poorer students are given far less opportunities. Many of them are forced to work at the same time they are in school - be it a paper round at an extremely early hour or something after school. Rich kids don't have this pressure. Also, many poor kids believe that it doesn't matter how well they do at school they still won't get a good job (my own teachers were telling us this all the time). If you live in a high unemployment area you see there are no job opportunities so you don't try as hard as you should. Rich kids are told the sky is the limit and their families have connections to get them good jobs.

    I also believe that if your exam paper is submitted from a private school then it is graded more favourably. There is never a level playing field.

  • Comment number 72.

    One of the main reasons poor children do not achieve high achademic results is society and poor teaching methods brought about by low financial impetus. If the equal rights on wages were strictly implemented so that a man could provide for his family then the mother could be there to look after her offspring,
    If the education was brought back on track to uniformity with the 3 Rs in place and X tables drilled into students at an early age things would inprove where as now tables arent taught, teachers have different teaching methods depending where they live and the internet and television undo any progress with its americanisations telling the world they speak english

  • Comment number 73.

    It has been interesting watching Gareth Malone's programme on BBC where he attempts to encourage boys to improve their reading skills. The big difference seemed to come from persuading fathers to read with their sons.

    There seems to have been a change since I was at school. For some reason boys now seem to reject education as "something for girls". As a result the management jobs will increasingly be taken by women and all those boys, who rejected education as wimpish, will find themselves having to do what they are told by girls they went to school with. That should produce some interesting social changes.

  • Comment number 74.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 75.

    Define "Achieve".

    I know dozens of people who are more than happy to become an apprentice, become a tradesman and work at that until they can't anymore. Is that an achievement? Or are they considered underachievers by the bourgeoisie because they don't have A-Levels? They are supporting themselves, earning a good wage and contributing to the betterment of the overall UK commune - so how can you call them underachievers because they don't have a slip of paper?

    I am a University Student, with one more year of misery before I Have a Masters. Because I am totally disinterested in my course I am only likely to get a 2:2 which excludes me from a great many employers. The funny thing is though - it is all these exclusive employers who are complaining they are getting students who are totally useless because aside from the bit of paper - they have nothing. No life, no skills, no personality, no opinions and no ambition.

    Aside from the particulars of definition, I would say the reason poorer students achieve less is because their parents haven't gone out of their way to achieve - they are in a loop of neutral ambition. They only dream of being greater than they are rather than becoming greater than they are. Where I lived back home, a massive amount of individuals only ambition was to be a hairdresser or a mechanic. If some of these people had aimed higher and been given opportunities, I bet many of them could be running the hairdresser or managing the garage.

  • Comment number 76.

    Why do poorer students do worse? Because we have a class system, always have and it is perpetuated by the BBC everyday. Now we can look forward to hundreds of HYS comments expressing a contrary belief.

  • Comment number 77.

    I have three highly intelligent daughters. I am a single parent earning less than 15K a year. Two daughters are at university. One is studying for the IB. I have to pay £35 a week just for her to travel to school ! She could have taken a 50% scholarship to a public school but I couldn't pay the other 50%. I don't drink, smoke, go out or have new clothes. I can hardly pay the bills but her travel to school comes first. Poverty dominates our lives BUT my girls come first and they WILL have good lives. they also find plenty of time to volunteer in the community ... we give back what we can.

  • Comment number 78.

    Educational differences do not depend on family income. It costs nothing to
    - switch the TV/ computer off
    - use the local library
    - get homework done and get to bed in time.

  • Comment number 79.

    74. At 5:38pm on 19 Sep 2010, Dai the Tie wrote:

    I wish people would learn to use the correct way to express "your" and "you're" (you are) on here.

    -------------------

    Apart from the obvious typo, the standard of spelling on HYS is testament to the British education system.

    What does amaze me is the lack of IT skills, as most computers have built in spell check!

  • Comment number 80.

    There is no single answer to the question of why poorer kids do less well educationally - it's a complex of things. In poorer homes there tend to be fewer books and intellectually stimulating toys. Time, especially for single parents, is very limited and less is available for reading with and playing with children. Expectations are generally much lower and teenagers from poor backgrounds see little prospect of success; often they see little prospect of meaningful paid employment.

    There is no single answer to the question of why poorer kids do less well educationally, but they undoubtedly do. And as long as we accept obscene levels of inequality they will continue to do so.

  • Comment number 81.

    78. At 5:50pm on 19 Sep 2010, RitaKleppmann wrote:
    Educational differences do not depend on family income. It costs nothing to
    - switch the TV/ computer off
    - use the local library
    - get homework done and get to bed in time.

    ----------------------------------------------------

    Sorry Rita, the observable, measurable objective facts are that educational differences DO depend on family income. Your "analysis" is built on stereotypes of low-income families that are part of the analgesic myth we have in our society that the poverty of the poor is, somehow, their fault, and that they could escape from it with a bit more effort and self-discipline. It isn't and they can't. They know that, but as long as we perpetuate the myth, poor children will continue to think that education is pointless.

  • Comment number 82.

    Family income plays a huge part in the future prospects for a child. My children are fortunate in that we live near the library, that we cannot afford computer games or televisions in their bedrooms etc. In that respect poverty has helped them. However, our local school is not good and the children there do not achieve. After my children were bullied mercilessly for being 'geeks' (purely because they did their homework) I had to move them. The move involved travelling by train every day and my youngest child now has a journey of more than an hour each way involving a long walk, a train journey and then a bus ride. My 'geek' was in danger of dropping out of the system but the change of school saved her. In the process the cost of travel now dominates my life. I already have two jobs and I am now looking for a third.

  • Comment number 83.

    Poor children in poor schools do face far greater disadvantage in their education but I am convinced that real talent is irrepressible and there are many,many examples of those who have achieved distinguished lives and careers against the odds.

  • Comment number 84.

    many years ago i was in north africa a third world country
    but there education system was first class acredit to there goverment,
    each student was given the chance to make something of themselves
    early teaching was their culture, religion etc, then general education
    in senior school they were given the choice of choosing a career (and a place in the university of sousse)those i know trained to be english teachers if they passed there exams they were placed in schools around tunisa (mostly the poorer area's)some did national service for 1 year after passing there exams unless there families paid a minium fee, but the most important thing was they had a chance to suceed.
    this country fails the vast majority of youth, it teaches them to be unskilled labourers or unemployed .
    so england is going backward as third world countries are going foreward

  • Comment number 85.

    Who says this gap is widening and on what data basis are they able to prove this? Does every student who goes to University have to fill in a form giving details of how poor an upbringing he has undergone? I do not believe this point, especially if it originates in the corridors of the left wing BBC. So, more detail please. Prove your point before asking a politically driven question.

  • Comment number 86.

    My neices and nephews have all gone to private schools, my sons were given the choice but chose not to. My sons had to have self motivation to do their homework where as at the boarding schools even prep and homework time are factored in.
    Add in smaller class sizes and a captive audience and you have the difference between the two. All of them are happy with their achievments and all of them are at, or have been to Uni. I am not rich but I found that by encouraging and praising my children they had the confidence to get ahead.

  • Comment number 87.

    Children in a private school get more individualized attention and quickly find a place in that school community whether that's class clown, stoner druggie or psycho spawn child from Hell. When children are loved and appreciated for their unique differences they get the needed attention they deserve to become confident. Confidence and self esteem are key issues that come from a job and effort well done. Children don't want to fail. If they do fail its either due to undiagnosed depression, chaotic/inadequate family life, learning disability/ misunderstanding etc. Support is key. Academic support is also emotional support for a child because he/she transfers his/her fears onto the adult. A child doesn't worry about school when they have a tutor because the tutor will lead him/her out of the darkness and make sure that everything is right for them. All children need support at different times of their lives. Putting educational money to ensure that children are well balanced psychologically, academically and socially before the age of 11 or so is money strategically and well spent. If a parent puts all of their parental chips from 0-11 they'll probably be home free and not have to worry about their child's future success. Good parenting is so vital because you are raising the next generation of independent children so its important that parents are awake and present, not drug addicted or embroiled in their petty dramas, during these vital formative years of their child's life.

  • Comment number 88.

    Short and sweet:- ATTITUDE & OPPORTUNITY.

    Rich kids fully expect Opportunity, while poor kids often cannot see any in their Future.

    WHY? "DESIGNATED" loosers from Thatcher era are now Poor Childrens' Parents.
    As the situation took Decades to ferment, it will take DECADES to eradicate IF Govt commits the Will.

    Frankly, I'm APPALLED at the Polarisation between the 'Haves & Have-nots' in British Society, and the manner in which the 'Haves' employ their Good-Fortune for Bigotry and Oppression. WE were All much better-off when we CARED about each other, and 'Caring' didn't cost much for the rewards it brought us as a Nation.

    Rather than DISCARD Retirees, Govt could impliment Inexpensive MENTORING programs for Poor Students to glean from their WEALTH of Experience.
    It would also benefit Retirees from Stagnating. Lack of something MEANINGFUL to do greatly contributes to Elderly Deterioration.

  • Comment number 89.

    Two things spring to mind, you only get what you pay for and it`s not what you know but who you know. The rich have both the money and the contacts to get their children the right education and the right job. Sadly the poor, even if bright and intelligent don`t get a chance to compete with so much stacked against them.

  • Comment number 90.

    16. At 1:11pm on 19 Sep 2010, Graham wrote:
    Why do poorer.....? because their parents are poor and therefore not as clever as rich people. It is in the genes.

    HoHoHo HaHaHa

    No its in the advantage of wealth and power..
    Any way the student isn't rich the parents are!!

    When has being RICH ever been a sign of intelligence?

    Rooney is RICH !
    BUSH is RICH !
    MURDOCH ???

    If those are an example of the RICH gene for intelligence then I'm glad I'm poor.

    Graham you arn't RUPERT by any chance are you?

    thanks for the laugh anyway you made my day.

  • Comment number 91.

    Totally agree: Rich thick kids do better, their maters and paters tend to be connected aka Osborne syndrome.

    Happens Stateside too.....can you think of anyone?

  • Comment number 92.

    87 posts, and obviously all from people who have never been to the UK, or seen 'Four weddings and a funeral'.

    It's the class system.

    If you can walk correctly, dress correctly and talk correctly you don't need any education whatsoever.

    Any amount of research demonstrates that people think that people who can do the above are thought more intelligent, more reliable, more honest and better employees than people with accents, bad haircuts and slouches. Plus, they get more attention in school from the teachers, and are better at interviews. Tim Nicebutdim is always going to have an advantage over ex Everton footballers, who would have to show much greater achievement in any social situation to be taken seriously.

  • Comment number 93.

    "
    63. At 5:03pm on 19 Sep 2010, Rabbitkiller wrote:

    The only poverty in the UK is poverty of ambition, accepted by the lazy and stupid, and encouraged by the welfare state.
    "

    Exactly.

  • Comment number 94.

    Why do thick people end up poor?

    ... and guess what? Their, genetically thick, kids also tend to become
    under achievers.

    100 years ago this HYS had some point. After 60 years of, generally
    equivalent, education it's an insult to the millions who were born
    'poor' and made something of themselves.

  • Comment number 95.

    It is the high cost of University education coupled with appalling secondary education for the majority who are not rich enough to attend public schools, or lucky enough to live close to and get a place in one of the few good secondary schools.

    Some have suggested genetics, others blame behaviour.. Most poor people I know are intelligent and well mannered, whereas the most arrogant, ill mannered and stupid individuals I have ever encountered were, without exception, very well off!

  • Comment number 96.

    piscator #92.

    "87 posts, and obviously all from people who have never been to the UK.."

    ouch, that hurt. (why didn't you read #28?)

  • Comment number 97.

    63 & 93 : Ambition for what? Perhaps you're both cossetted from the realities of our post bank crash third world economy - there aren't jobs for well educated graduates let alone those with limited qualifications from poorer backgrounds.

  • Comment number 98.

    The most perceptive and well-considered article on education and the present inequalities I have read fora long time. Thank you for such a carefully researched and lucid contribution to the debate about how to improve the system in this country.

  • Comment number 99.

    There sre some state primary and secondary schools who have a large proportion of poor pupils but still manage to get good results. These schools have some of the answers. Generally these schools have very high expectations and good teaching methods, and also have a focus on factors in the pupils' lives which may be hindering their progress. Most state schools are unfortunately mediocre and have inappropriately low expectations of some pupils, and mediocre teaching methods. Children who are underachieving, for whatever reason, believe that they are failures and cannot achieve and slip through the net: the help given to these children in most state schools is totally inadequate and often dumbing down, achieving nothing or even making the situation worse.

  • Comment number 100.

    Gifted and talented schemes and grammar/faith schools are devisive they don't achieve what we think they should. Children and young people will only achieve their full potential in a school that values all students not just the select few and not just academic achievement. We need more than ever to mix children up, all abilities and social groups, produces more rounded individuals. Personally I think the new academies are going in the right direction.

 

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