ASCL comment on latest findings from Covid Social Mobility study

Julie McCulloch, Director of Policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, responds to the latest COVID Social Mobility & Opportunities (COSMO) study, examining links between poverty, mental health issues and educational attainment.
“This study provides further evidence of the link between child poverty and educational attainment, which schools witness on a daily basis. It’s reflected not just in grades but also in the pupils coming to school hungry, those battling mental health issues and the families struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
“Schools do their best to help all pupils succeed, irrespective of their background, but they are fighting against entrenched inequalities. Our severely underfunded children’s services are unable to cope with spiralling demand, leaving schools to paper over the cracks. There are immediate steps that could be taken to ease the burden on schools and the young people in their care, including providing funding both for increased pastoral care in schools and for external mental health support. Widening the free schools meals scheme to include all families in receipt of universal credit would be another lifeline for many families, and something that many organisations have long called for.
“Ultimately, though, the government has to make the widespread investment required to tackle the root causes of poverty. It is morally indefensible, in what is still one of the richest countries in the world, for family income to play such a large part in dictating a pupil’s attainment at school, and for so many families to be living without basic necessities. Sadly, that is the reality we face.”