England: How do we help the poorest children beat the odds?

For generations, we have struggled to help the most disadvantaged children in the poorest parts of England. And we have done a great deal – but not enough. We need to find approaches that can make a real and sustained difference, so no child’s life chances are blighted by being born into poverty.

Deprivation can have a devastating impact on a child. If they start at a disadvantage, schooling often does little to level the playing field. There are clear links between deprivation and poorer exam scores, reduced employment opportunities, poor health  in adulthood and increased criminality.

Why does this happen?

There’s no simple answer – but no inevitable failure either

It is not inevitable that all children from poor families or poor areas will do badly. Some kids will beat the odds.

A child’s environment is a complex ecology, where factors – schools, families, communities, wider social and cultural contexts – interact to produce different outcomes for different children.

Schools can certainly play a vital role in mitigating poverty’s impact on a child, but a single institution cannot give a children all the support and skills they need to thrive.

The important of place

As President Obama said: “if poverty is a disease that affects an entire community, in the form of unemployment, violence, failing schools and broken homes, then you cannot just treat those symptoms in isolation, but instead you have to heal the entire community”.

Or in other words, when the fabric of a community gets threadbare and the area becomes deprived, it is much harder for the children living there to do well. For them to grow up happy and healthy, the community itself must be stitched back together.

United for children

Informed by the Harlem Children’s Zone project in the US, Save the Children is exploring a UK version of children’s zones. The focus is on children aged 0-18 living in a 100-block area and the objective is to help disadvantaged children from one of the US’s most deprived communities’ secure educational and economic opportunities.

The approach provides continuous support for children from cradle to career, across all areas of their lives. It aims to unite a community undera common cause to improve outcomes for children. This could be
particularly timely in England – building on children’s centres, extended school clusters, school federations and multi-agency working and also capitalising on new opportunities for local action.

We need to be bold in exploring new ways to tackle the scandal of educational inequality and to ensure that poverty is no longer a barrier to children fulfilling their potential. Instead of helping some kids to beat the odds, we need to change the odds altogether.

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  • Christopher L Smith

    Today 5/06/13 saw on TV fro the first time since the second world war an appeal on behalf of this organisation an appeal for two pounds per month donation to eliminate starvation by food depravity to mothers and children within this country.
    This country is the fifth richest country in the world. and how can this country have the gall to tell or demand other countries to improve the living conditions of their people, when our government cannot even apply the same or better rules to its own nation. That is call hypocrisy. I am 76 and all my adult life I have fought hard to look after people and their needs with feeding, clothing and decent housing conditions taking priority. We must now draw a line in the sand and say THIS DEPRAVATION IN THE UK IS UNACCEPTABLE.

  • I see the advert on tv. I am quite happy to donate to this cause. But I would like more information on how to help children in this country . I believe it is time to start helping children closer to home .

  • Nina Caplan

    Hello Ron, thanks for your comment. Save the Children is very much involved in helping children in the UK and we will soon be doing more: if you come back to our website on 8 Oct you will find much more information about this.