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AIBU to think there is a stigma attached to taking up Free School Meals?

(421 Posts)
cingolimama Thu 29-Aug-13 13:33:35

Would really value MNers experience here. DH and I have had a pretty disastrous year financially (redundancy for DH, drying up of contracts for me). However we are both working hell for leather to turn this around. In the meantime we're eligible for FSM, which frankly would be a big help. I also know that it helps the school gain a Pupil Premium.

But I'm a bit nervous about this. I don't want my daughter to be "targeted for help" as I believe anyone benefiting from FSM is (but perhaps I'm being idiotic - DD could surely use a booster in maths dept.) I also don't want any social stigma attached to this. It's a mixed school socially, but the majority is very middle class. Has anyone had any negative experience of taking this up? Or AIBU and it will all be fine?

friday16 Sun 01-Sep-13 12:57:03

"This year I'm hoping we will get a literacy and numeracy programme off the ground for parents and families"

Quite. I don't think people in general understand the implications of multi-generational literacy issues. All this endless "but I help my children" or, worse, "they should help their children" ignores the fact that there are parents who can't. It might be for any number of reasons, including, for all I care, fecklessness. But whoever's fault it is if parents can't read, it's sure as hell isn't their children's. Those children, raised in houses where literacy is not part of daily life, need interventions or they are highly likely to fail in school. And FSM is a predictor of that.

Yes, of course, there are plenty of people claiming FSM who are not illiterate. But there are fewer people who are not claiming FSM who are illiterate, because illiteracy is a major predictor of poverty, and vice versa. Running schemes to improve parental literacy, and to attempt to eradicate poor experiences of education, is incredibly valuable work, and needs to be funded as a matter of urgency. And, unsurprisingly, school FSM rates and EAL rates, which again is closely correlated are not a perfect way to target those projects, but it's better than anything else anyone is bringing to the table.

Schools are using PP to reach out into the community and attempt to undo decades of poor educational practice. Toys is worried about "labelling" people. I'm more interested in helping them.

BoundandRebound Sun 01-Sep-13 12:27:24

I think that's a valid point

We use the money to target the students who need support and not everyone in the demographic group

Every school does

For us though its not just educational attainment but pastoral needs

This year I'm hoping we will get a literacy and numeracy programme off the ground for parents and families

UK education policy has let down generations

curlew Sun 01-Sep-13 12:19:48

There are literacy intervention programmes for boys at my ds's school. It so happens that he is very good at English. So he doesn't take part in the programme. Neither do a significant wodge of other boys. Why would I be offended that he is "lumped in with the underachievers because he is a boy"? He is part of a cohort that underachieve. So he is "looked at" to see if he is underachieving. He isn't. Fantastic. Others are. So the take part in the programme. Also Fantastic.

BoundandRebound Sun 01-Sep-13 12:11:59

But the problem is with reference to the socio demographics of the UK and educational policy and proved correlations of sub sections and attainment you don't seem to understand what anyone else is talking about even though there is copious information out there

friday16 Sun 01-Sep-13 12:11:22

"I'm just not sure what the practical implementation of that stat should be, or whether there should be any measures based solely on that."

Historically, women who wanted to do science degrees (or even A Levels) were dissuaded from doing so by a variety of pressures, and even today rates of women in engineering are vanishingly small. There are programmes in place to address this, which aim to encourage (for example) women to see possible careers in STEM other than medicine, and in particular to do A Level Physics.

It is not the case that being a woman means you cannot, or will not, succeed in science. But it is much, much less likely. Boys doing badly at maths are supported, girls are often left to flounder as it doesn't matter so much. Up until recently, girls' schools were much less likely to offer Physics or even, in some cases, A Level maths. And women doing postgraduate courses are more likely to be doing PGCEs and less likely to be doing PhDs: even subjects in which women are now arriving as undergraduates are still virtually all-male preserves amongst doctoral candidates. Again, much is being done to address this.

I take it you'd close all this down? It's just a statistical correlation, and the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. The interventions are based mostly just on the observation that women are less likely to progress to higher levels in some subjects for which they nonetheless have all the lower level qualifications. Isn't this just labelling women as bound to fail?

ToysRLuv, I believe you mean well, but you are are quite naive.

There is a massive gap in your knowledge with regard to how FSM and schools work and you may find it easier to construct a logical argument when you are in possession of the facts.

RooRooTaToot Sun 01-Sep-13 12:05:06

Married - it isn't quite as easy as that. Not all of the children out of the 8 will be disruptive. Maybe 2 of them. The others are very hard to motivate and are inclined to put their head on the desk and switch off.

The most frustrating thing is that these children are intelligent and have the potential to achieve A*-C's but they don't see any reason to try to do it. 1-1 conversations about what ambitions they had (not just academically or work-wise, but things like travel, sports, hobbies) merited such gems as 'nothing', 'I just want to play video games', 'My mum didn't do exams and she's fine. She says I don't need to bother either."

That last comment was from a girl with an A capability who was working at a D grade. I spent the next 3 years encouraging her and challenging her expectations of herself (I fought to keep her in my class as groups changed each year as she could be "hard to handle" and some other teachers inclined to write her off as she would be gobby one lesson and head on the desk the next lesson). She did achieve the A in the end. Partly this was due to being in a school where the majority of students have high aspirations and partly due to a myriad of interventions put in place by a range of staff.

I highly doubt that putting all underachieving students, who have low aspirations into one specialist unit full time would benefit them. One or two sessions per week can have an impact, but I doubt it for the majority.

I would however welcome more training on how to reach these children. I count the student mentioned above as one of my biggest successes, but I also know for every one like that there is another 2 students I haven't been able to reach (not for lack of effort or care either!).

I do not know what the answer is, but I am sure there must be one.

ToysRLuv Sun 01-Sep-13 12:02:58

Yes, I believe there is a statistical link. Same as with boys underachieving more often than girls etc. I'm just not sure what the practical implementation of that stat should be, or whether there should be any measures based solely on that.

curlew Sun 01-Sep-13 12:00:01

Toys- before we go any further- do you believe that there is a link between poverty/disadvantage and under achievement or not? Please could you just say yes or no?

ToysRLuv Sun 01-Sep-13 11:57:59

<bangs head on wall on the opposite side>

curlew Sun 01-Sep-13 11:56:47

"I'm sure nobody would turn down free school meals and uniforms, etc. if the assumptions stopped there"

But it's not an assumption that in general poor/disadvantaged children achieve less well than others! It's a fact!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

<beats head on brick wall repeatedly>

ToysRLuv Sun 01-Sep-13 11:55:48

I have a point, but it's not an easy to swallow ready-made answer to everything. In fact, it's more of a question than an answer.

ToysRLuv Sun 01-Sep-13 11:50:42

And, I am NOT, opposed to helping those who need the help. I'm sure nobody would turn down free school meals and uniforms, etc. if the assumptions stopped there. And believe me, I know what I'm talking about.

friday16 Sun 01-Sep-13 11:49:58

"Finland does have some areas (in Helsinki) where the level of newcomers and non-Finnish speakers is lower than in most UK metropolitan authorities, but nonetheless higher than Finland's historically extremely low levels".

Fixed that for you.

"Better tell all the governments taking notes to stop, "

Few governments are. Well-meaning lefties love it, rather in the same way ten years ago they were all watching that dreadful "Etre et Avoir" film and pretending that Islington were suddenly a small village in the Massif Central.

"I didn't know you couldn't have an opinion unless it was highly practical and "helpful"."

You're arguing that a fielded, operational and effective intervention should be changed to something else. It behoves you to have a something else to discuss.

ToysRLuv Sun 01-Sep-13 11:46:56

I'm not privileged at all. That is your assumption.

marriedinwhiteisback Sun 01-Sep-13 11:45:03

Roorootatoot. I applaud your post but do you think the 8 are not achieving because the average or even average teacher delivering outstanding lessons dooes not have the specialist skills to cope/deal with such dc. Don't you think there is an argument to get them into specialist units for teaching? They were the ones who disrupted at ddks school which sounnds similar to yours. It was the principal reason we moved her.

ToysRLuv Sun 01-Sep-13 11:44:35

Is it all about immigration then? Finland does have some areas (in Helsinki) where the level of newcomers and non-Finnish speakers is high, but still somehow manage ok. I don't know. Maybe it really is that utopian, then. Better tell all the governments taking notes to stop, because it's futile and useless.

I didn't know you couldn't have an opinion unless it was highly practical and "helpful". Thanks for pointing that out, though. I'll know for next time.

unlucky83 Sun 01-Sep-13 11:42:51

silverfox no-one should feel insulted!
I - and I am sure the professionals - don't for one second believe that every child on FSM is deprived and likely to underachieve...

I'm sure most people on here have children who had at least seen a book by the time they were 3 -but there really, really are children out there who haven't...this is a reality -maybe hard to believe for people who haven't seen it.
This is for many reasons...it isn't just being poor - it is coming from a non-aspiring background - an 'underclass'...and their parental role models probably had the same upbringing...
Not everyone who is on benefits or poor - on FSM - will be in this situation - but without a doubt the ones who ARE will be ...if that makes sense...
So IMO if the easiest and quickest way is a blanket approach - so these children who do really need the help get it -
I feel that is more important to society than the fact that the ones who don't need it (like I assume your children?) also get it...
and extra funds for the school can never be a bad thing ...

friday16 Sun 01-Sep-13 11:40:15

"I don't think it's snobbery to have issues with the assumption that if you're poor (very temporarily or long term), your children are automatically seen as disadvantaged and in need of interventions."

I do, however, this it's snobbery to start from a position of privilege and pretend to speak for those that are receiving the help. Your claim is that people would rather not receive help, because they feel offended by that help. Get out there and do some research, and find out if that's true.

You are failing to understand, ToysRLuv, that PP exists because there is a strong association between poverty and children failing to reach their potential. Just because there are exceptions doesn't negate it.

ToysRLuv Sun 01-Sep-13 11:37:35

Yes, the mention of Finland should be banned. It's probably not even a real country. Did I mention the president's name is Hitler (no relation to Adolf)? grin

friday16 Sun 01-Sep-13 11:37:10

"I know nobody is actually telling little children they are bound to fail just because they're on fsm, but the general assumption is there "

The general assumption is that there is a link, not that they are "bound to fail". Surely you can't have got the keys to your ivory tower without reading at least one paper which used correlation as infer links between demographic issues and outcomes?

We know a great deal about demographic issues that correlate to educational outcomes, by income, gender, ethnicity, language, class, parental education, whatever. The next part is trying to provide targeted help. To ignore demographic effects is to ignore one of the best sets of evidence that we have.

Raising the spectre of Finland is unhelpful: they simply don't have the demographic diversity we do. You can argue that we should aspire to the same state, but given the historic low levels of immigration to Finland and the high levels to the UK, it's not clear how possible this would be. But the argument "it's easy to fix education, we just have to fix society first" is hardly constructive.

ToysRLuv Sun 01-Sep-13 11:35:27

I don't think it's snobbery to have issues with the assumption that if you're poor (very temporarily or long term), your children are automatically seen as disadvantaged and in need of interventions. And that is the basic premise of pp. The system seems to be liked by schools (from what I see here), however, so what can I say..

ToysRLuv Sun 01-Sep-13 11:30:48

I don't have all the answers, and I'm sorry I ever commented now. It's only that I know how official assumptions work, through my personal experience seeking help for pnd, and how demeaning they can feel when you're at the receiving end.

friday16 Sun 01-Sep-13 11:26:27

Mike Godwin's original contention was that as any discussion on the Internet proceeds, the probability that someone will mention Hitler approaches unity.

There should be some sort of lemma to that, which we could call Toy's Law, where if the topic is education, Finland will probably be mentioned first.

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