Education Really Matters: Overview of the article on “Social Deprivation and Education”

How far have we progressed? Is it right to feel annoyed at the present state of educational provision for deprived children and teenagers? How can we respond to and build on the capabilities and resilience of juveniles with significant needs?

Addressing poverty and marginalisation. A common misunderstanding is to equate communal affliction only with financial privation. Deprivation has many guises. It is a complex and intractable phenomenon which also covers issues dealing health and welfare, parenting, housing, infrastructure, urban and rural dysfunction, inadequate schooling and unemployment. All learners, regardless of age, require to: be well nourished; live in reasonably healthy and safe environments; be able to obtain essential services without major inconveniences; and be actively engaged in educational or training programmes which are aimed at enriching personal circumstances.

Recent research and media outlets frequently refer to ‘hard to reach’ families and suggestions are offered on ways in which helpful dialogue can be initiated on their behalf. Though the term ‘hard to reach’ is usually well intended, it can sound rather patronising or even act as a label. If professionals are to use it, then the converse must be conceded: that specialists themselves also can be difficult to contact as far as needy people living in stressful conditions are concerned. It is a two-way problem.

Actions speak louder than words. It is only too easy for the ‘haves’ to reproach the ’have-nots’ as being lazy and short-sighted. The tendency of some is to assume that the fault simply lies with those who are suffering from impoverishment. In contrast, when tackling the ubiquity of poverty, zealous educationalists aim to fix attention on social solidarity and the transformation of ill-fated, lived experiences. They take relevant account of contextual factors and never ignore the tribulations created by a multitude of environmental tensions. They are fully aware of why their students are distracted by the makeshift and changeable conditions which they have to endure.

Key strategies for development and implementation. Various options hold promise with the following eight proposals being offered for deliberation. Space only permits a very general outline of their content and functions.

  1. Early identification and support. A nation’s focus must always be on the right of every individual to have the best possible start in life. All phases of human development are important and, given appropriate intervention, the previous negative effects of hardships can be overcome. Inclusion, engagement and enjoyment are pertinent driving forces on the road to success. In particular, the pre-school years have been highlighted as a key period to help those from underprivileged backgrounds.
  2. Promoting resilience within family units and communities. The bolstering of beneficial features – shelter, safeguarding and compassionate care – can do much to strengthen youngsters in surmounting daily obstacles. Collaborating with and empowering all those residing in impoverished districts are essential. Involvement in suitable programmes should aim at breaking intergenerational cycles in respect of marginalisation, low expectations and academic failure.
  3. Extending additional educational support. Educational establishments which have to meet with the demands posed by harsh economic conditions merit extra funding and should not be evaluated by the same academic criteria as others situated in more well-to-do locations. They have a claim on planned compensation as regards the allocation of teaching specialists to aid anyone encountering substantial difficulties and designated assistants to promote inclusive practices. The expansion of trained staff for literacy, mathematics and personal, social and health education in primary schools – and also in specific subjects in the secondary sector – should always be kept under review.
  4. Developing communal integration and participation. There is a strong case for establishing more effective and coherent services across health, education, social work departments and voluntary groups. Interventions aimed at alleviating disadvantage are obliged to be dynamic and multi-faceted in providing solutions across an extensive range of societal predicaments.
  5. Effective use of public assets. It would be advantageous if there were more openings for everyone living in rundown localities to have better contact with amenities – museums, art galleries, sports programmes, and the like – to profit from them in genuinely purposeful ways. In general, insufficient use is made of the nation’s stock of regional resources to advance their chances for stimulating out-of-school learning.
  6. Utilising the expertise of altruistic volunteers. Another initiative aimed at narrowing the gaps in enterprise and scholarship is the deployment of unpaid helpers, including retired professionals, as mentors or advisers to engage constructively with young people. Thoughtful scrutiny is necessary to recruit from a wide variety of current or previous occupations and to select those who have the skills which can enhance and transform lives. There are many conceivable inputs which committed citizens can contribute.
  7. Increasing admissions to tertiary forms of education and training. The inhabitants of economically deprived surroundings require greater admittance into tertiary forms of education across colleges, universities, formal vocational courses, and industrial placements. Of particular concern is the danger of teenagers not embarking on the most appropriate courses for entry into future, gainful livelihoods. 
  8. Evaluation and accountability in the application of policies. Policy decisions and initiatives ought to have built into them a formal outline of data and predictions concerning the ‘socio-economic duty’ of the official bodies which hold the purse strings. Everybody has the right to be kept up-to-date on whether undertakings have matched expectations or fallen short of declared objectives.

Concluding remarks – or will we be fooled again? Comprehensive, integrated and enduring strategies which fit well with eliminating the specific prerequisites of deprivation in different settings have been missing. Further action research to identify the most efficient means of delivering and supplementing evidence-based methods would be advantageous. It is crucial to determine what combinations operate best and in what circumstances.

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