KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 08-Oct-13 12:33:39

Save the Children: "The gap between rich and poor starts as soon as UK children get to school"

A new report by Save The Children finds that poor children who are behind in the 'three Rs' at the age of seven will probably never catch up with their richer peers.

Here William Higham, Save the Children's director of UK poverty, explains why the charity is calling for a tripling of the 'pupil premium' to help redress the balance. But what do you think should be done to prevent children's futures being determined by their birth?

William Higham

Director of UK poverty, Save The Children

Posted on: Tue 08-Oct-13 12:33:39


Lead photo

Poorer children's life chances are determined by age seven, says Save The Children

Last month, I dropped my daughter off at school for her first day of Year One. It felt like a big moment. It was her first day of real school, the beginning of the most exciting journey she will ever go on.

That journey is harder for some children than others. For the UK’s poorest children, the first few years of school aren’t their first steps on a road of discovery, but their last chance to keep up with their richer counterparts.

Too Young To Fail, Save the Children’s new report into the effects of poverty in the UK, looks at why poorer children do worse at school that their better off classmates and reveals a shocking fact: that by age seven, we can tell which children will do well in their GSCEs and which will not. The poorest children are likely to do worse. The conclusion is inescapable: poverty holds back children’s life chances, and the gap between rich and poor starts as soon as children get to school.

Despite progress from both this government and the last, we’re still failing too many children too young. In fact, unless we do something urgently, half a million seven year olds – today’s newborn babies - will behind in their reading and writing by 2020.

But there is good news too. We know that with the right help at the right time, we can help poor children catch up. Seven is not too late to turn things round, and we’re already rolling out programmes to help close the gap in educational attainment between rich and poor.

We know it’s not easy, especially when times are hard. We’ve just surveyed parents of young children around the country. All parents, regardless of how much they earn, knew the importance of education. However, we found that parents earning under £17,000 a year were cutting back in large numbers on enriching activities like music lessons and school trips that we know can make a difference.

The conclusion is inescapable: poverty holds back children's life chances, and the gap between rich and poor starts as soon as children get to school.

And it’s not just affecting the poorest. Those on incomes the next level up, the kind of salaries you’d expect for teachers, nurses or midwives, are facing a double squeeze on time and money. They are working longer hours that make is harder to spend time with their families and they are also cutting back on educational activities by nearly as much as the poorest group.

That is not to say that these parents – whether time poor and cash poor- are bad parents. In fact, families facing financial challenges can be the most creative in helping their children learn. One family I met were so desperate to keep their children in school after losing their home that they spent three hours a day on the train, doing homework together, trying to turn a desperate situation for their family into an advantage for their children. They are not alone. Families all over the country are juggling time and money to get the best for their children. When they realise they are not alone it’s like watching a weight being lifted from them.

That’s why we make sure our programmes bring families together with schools to support their children’s education together. Families that meet at our programmes often form childcare networks, swap advice, even share lifts to the supermarket to save money on petrol. By bringing communities together, we can help make sure the poorest children aren’t left behind.

We're urging people across the country to support our work. We're aiming to recruit 20,000 ‘change makers’ over the next four years who will help us reach children in their first chapters of life, giving them a better chance of fulfilling their potential.

But we also want all political parties to do more. We are calling on the government to immediately allocate an additional £1000 “fair chances premium” for children aged five, six and seven who are falling behind and to triple the pupil premium to between £3,000 - £4,000 for every eligible primary school pupil by 2020. We want all political parties to pledge to ensure that every child leaves primary school with a good education, including being a confident reader.

Last week I was at a school in Salford visiting a volunteer reading scheme that we are rolling out around the country. I met Mackenzie and Loreal, two seven year olds brimming with enthusiasm to show off their new reading skills. Both had spent time over the last year with a volunteer, reading one-to-one. That time and focus had changed their stories - now we need to give the same opportunity to every child who falls behind.

That’s why we’re rolling out more programmes than ever before to give every child a fair start in life. Over the next few years we’ll work with tens of thousands of children. But it’s only a small part of what’s needed. We know parents have more enough on their plates with their own kids, but by spreading the word to others we can get the community action we need- from parents, volunteers, and politicians - to make sure that no child starts their journey carrying the burden of poverty on their shoulders.

Tell us what you think about the latest research on the thread. Is an increased pupil premium the answer - or are there other ways to ensure that children start from a level playing field?

By William Higham

Twitter: @savechildrenuk

Sparrowp Wed 09-Oct-13 12:48:02

My greatest concern is that families are not able to provide for children.

This starts with young adults. We are seeing increasing impoverishment of young adults. Many cannot afford to save, they cannot buy a house or even rent one, salaries are getting worse, jobs are more unstable and hard to find, and living costs are rising.

When the entire salary goes on paying the rent, what is left over for raising a family? Nothing?

A single adult must be able to save and have spare income, so that when they meet the right person and settle down, the family has stability, savings and a decent income to meet the extra costs of raising children.

That is why we need more decent jobs. That is why we need to enable adults to buy (or rent) homes at reasonable prices.

And then families will be have the time and resources to read to their children, provide stimulating activities, and support children's development so that they are well prepared for school.

VelvetStrider Wed 09-Oct-13 13:18:15

I agree with Sparrowp - housing cost, whether rent or mortgage, is just so disproportionate to income compared to our parents generation. That means longer hours worked to pay for basic needs, and the knock-on effect of tired, stressed parents.

How is the 'fair chances premium' intended to work? If it will be spent on learning opportunities to support existing learning - extra-curricular reading clubs, music lessons etc., great! Peer-led activities to slowly change the culture of lack of motivation to learn in certain sectors of society - fantastic!

Spottybra Wed 09-Oct-13 13:40:59

There are so many factors in this that are unmentioned. Parental attitude and involvement, number of siblings, culture and subculture to name a few.

The only way is to take other environmental factors out which means no homework, no reading to be done at home and extracurricular activities based at the school.

I would suggest borrowing the boarding school practice of prep, and also flipped classroom learning that the children can access via the school website if a lesson needs to be remembered/reviewed/learnt as originally missed.

gazzalw Wed 09-Oct-13 17:13:12

I've always thought homework should be done at school too Spottybra! It would go some way to level the playing field.

I personally think the gap starts at conception rather than the start of the school years.....

JustinBsMum Wed 09-Oct-13 17:57:20

Wasn't there recently a study which found that some children were disadvantaged by the long school holidays. Where some children have an interesting and entertaining holiday which adds to their knowledge less fortunate children who perhaps receive less attention have reduced skills and knowledge after the holidays. So in those cases it's the home not the school makes the difference.

Thinking about it we were financially poor during most of my childhood and teens, but there was an unspoken assumption that we would go onto further education, and there were library books in the home and because I was in the top class in school was relatively bright. The lack of money possibly reduced my confidence to go out in the world and achieve but I did ok by most standards, having a good profession, but didn't think of being a CEO or running my own company, as no experience of that, so perhaps a rich home might have produced a more wealthy outcome.

jokebook Wed 09-Oct-13 18:13:46

The gap starts in the womb not school age....

I agree about the boarding school model.

The one I worked at (Y4-Y8) stopped lessons at 3.30ish, then fed the children a snack: milk/juice and cake or toast, typically - tempting but quickly burned off.

Then non-academic clubs such as music, drama, sport, chess, model making, etc, or free play running about like mad things on the field for a couple of hours.

Substantial supper, then an hour of supervised prep.

Evenings (ie from 7.30 to bedtime) in the boarding house strictly not academic - maybe a video, or a game, or swimming/rounders/tennis etc, weather permitting.

Primary school children need exercise and downtime as well as consolidation. Supervised prep works because it's in a supportive environment with staff available to help (although it might be an English teacher and a Maths prep grin ).

After-school clubs that let children play then give them quiet and space to read their book or do their sums or whatever it is could make a real difference particularly to those from the families Save The Children calls "time poor".

But I agree that the gulf is already yawning before school starts - the 3+ and 2+ EYFS funding tries to address it. Any scheme to address the balance is only ever catching up, not actually levelling the playing field.

lisad123everybodydancenow Wed 09-Oct-13 21:47:54

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MiniMonty Thu 10-Oct-13 01:42:00

Turns out that kids who qualify for free school meals are outstripping their counterparts academically.
Ho Hum.
An absolutely factual rebuttal to this piece of 'class war' propaganda.

MiniMonty Thu 10-Oct-13 01:46:09

Turns out that a hot lunch is more powerful than a trip to Florence, violin lessons or rugby on Sunday.

bronya Thu 10-Oct-13 05:53:07

In the schools I worked in, what FSM children missed out on, was parents who had a good education themselves, who read and wrote at home. It was those from the 'squeezed middle' who missed out in terms of school trips, music lessons, time with their parents (before and after school club, then holiday camps), homework and reading.

brettgirl2 Thu 10-Oct-13 07:15:28

I guess where the money helps is more one to one help at school. It's complex though, take reading at home it costs nothing but I expect some 'groups' of parents are statistically less likely to do it. Obviously most poor parents do but if yours don't then it puts you at major disadvantage.

I think kids often learn the most through free stuff, being outside, exploring and observing nature etc. As someone else said books are free.

Doubletroublemummy2 Thu 10-Oct-13 09:24:48

This is just an advert for a charity! "poor kids" get tonnes of free help and support. From School trips to meals. My childrens primary school has started a breakfast club, cost £2 per child, unless you are on free school meals, then it's free. Apparently the children attending have shown marked improvement in their engagment with school and literacy and numeracy scores have shown improvement. I don't consider my family to be poor, and the gov't certainly don't either but I don't have have an exrta £80 a month to allow my children to go and if I did they would have swimming lessons first.

i know people hate the idea but i think the school day needs extending - no one to be forced to attend (re: if you want to pick your child up at 3.20 fine) but available to all who want/need it.

a play time, a snack, then homework club and/or extra curricular activities etc and finish at 5.20pm.

it would help the time poor and the money poor and the just plain living in the 21st century scrabbling for non existent spaces in after school care.

maybe not every day per child even - say a child can stay up to three days a week for example.

we really do need to move on.

when you look at the size of the curriculum and what children are expected to learn by the age of 16 now compared to say 60 years ago and then look at the fact that the school day and the school year has stayed as tiny it has it's hardly surprising that standards drop and the basics aren't as well absorbed and embedded for life.

oh and i want benefits for ALL children not this target the poor. improve things for all and provide things for all knowing that they'll be of the most benefit perhaps for the poorest.

personally i'd scrap FSM and put the money into subsidising cheap school meals for all.

I have been a single mother on benefits and yes, i definitely could have afforded to pay say £3.50 a week on school dinners for ds when i was actually getting them free. as it is i now work and ds has packed lunches because there's no way i can afford to pay £2 per day on a 6yo size portion meal. i don't quite understand who can afford to pay such a price.

if school dinners were compulsory and super cheap you could produce them cheaply and everyone would eat together. as i say i have lived on benefits as a single mum with no child maintenance etc and YES i could've afforded to pay £3.50pw

Those on low incomes have access to free. Breakfast clubs, school lunch and free music lessons.

Really? We currently have a low income, DD receives FSM, as will DS1 when he starts next September. We are offered no other help, and certainly not free music lessons or breakfast clubs. I suspect it depends on the area you live in and what your school has decided to provide with the pupil premium. AFAICS DD receives very little of "her" (and I know it's not specifically for her!) pupil premium, as she is achieving above expectations at school and it mostly goes to support those that need help with literacy/numeracy by funding a specialist teacher and extra TAs who can do small group work.

Rooble Thu 10-Oct-13 10:53:53

It's a really difficult one. My city is in the process of closing down 16 of its 27 libraries. One of the key factors in the decision-making process re: which of the libraries to close was what they termed "demographic need" - so basically the poorest areas with the highest levels of underachievement in school and the highest levels of unemployment will be likely to retain their library. My area (middle-class, fairly but not ludicrously affluent, some social-housing) will lose all its libraries so that the nearest one to us will be a 40 minute bus journey away.
I can kind of understand the logic of the council's decision on paper - except that: is it a good idea to withdraw from one set of high-achieving children that which contributed to them being high-achieving in the first place, just so that lower achieving children can continue to have the facility that they have chosen not to access remain available?
Upping the pupil premium to £4k will mean money had to come from somewhere. I'm not clear where you're proposing this should be? It would surely be better to ensure that parents were literate so that they could read with their children? Or, as mentioned above, that homework clubs were made available to all? (With the loss of our library we will lose our local homework club. Plus ready access to the reference books).
It's a much bigger issue than throwing a bit of cash at some children.

brambleandapple Thu 10-Oct-13 10:56:36

I think this issue is much more complex than first appears.

When schools receive extra funding for 'disadvantaged' children this often equals extra support, which lessons a teacher's burden to teach, for example reading. Part of the work can be 'delegated' and ownership over successful attainment is shared amongst more people. Assigning the term 'disadvantaged' to a sector of children also reduces the perception of how successfully they can be expected to learn, thus shifting the blame for poor standards away from teachers to economical circumstances. In turn this could mean there is less incentive to actually term this group of children children 'successful'.

With the way teacher assessment works, there is huge potential for subjective judgement. One person's 'securely' working within a target is another's 'emergent' within a target.

Assigning the term 'disadvantaged' to a whole sector of children from the outset does not help pre-conceptions about what they will attain and the aspirations (which are recorded in terms of predicted grades) for them. It is amazing how many schools are accused of 'massaging' the sub-levels to fit in with their own performance management.

I think the thread below makes interesting reading when considering how 'neutral' some within the teaching profession actually are, especially when funding is tied in with attainment / whole sectors of children.


I wonder how many schools have been trying to encourage uptake of FSM, since it gains then extra funding. Also some LAs give extra funding for low Prior Attainment, so I wonder if this will affect figures at all. If all school children under 7 then get FSM I wonder what effect that will have.

Elfhame Thu 10-Oct-13 11:08:35

I am on a low income. I used to be on benefits but as soon as I started work all entitlement to free school meals etc stopped. People on low incomes don't get free trips and music lessons - they don't even get free school meals. We don't get free breakfast club either.

I think school dinners should be free for all - the fact that some pay in but don't get back just breeds resentment toward those who do get help. I also think extending the school day is a good idea.

I don't get to spend as much time with the kids as I would like as I work all weekend, 12 hour shifts, whilst the children's dad works in the week. The kid's dad has dyslexia and learning difficulties and struggles with my DD's year 3 reading, so it is only me who can really help them with their homework. I do as much as I can in the evenings, but extending the school day and homework clubs would definitely help us.

just another quick thought - i don't think fsm is actually a good indicator of whether extra money is needed. my son for example was on fsm for his first year in school - i was not working, am an ex-teacher and postgrad educated and was time rich and unsurprisingly then ds entered school with effectively an advantage over many children of financially better off households. he certainly didn't require anything extra educationally because i happened to be on benefits at the time though less bloody demands for payments for timetabled activities would have been nice.

if anything ds is worse off really now that i'm working as i've become time poor and knackered as well as not really being overall any better off financially.

this fsm = disadvantaged = need more money/have greater needs than others is far too simplistic.

if there is extra money to be had spend it on providing more for all children. those with the most need will benefit the most but it won't be about singling out groups for labeling with all the subsequent reduced expectations.

and yy to inequities of provision and funding breeding resentment.

Elfhame Thu 10-Oct-13 11:18:23

One to one reading is a brilliant idea

brambleandapple Thu 10-Oct-13 11:23:10

I wouldn't want to extend the school day though...I think children do enough. There is already more than enough pressure on them.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Thu 10-Oct-13 11:31:02

This entirely misses the point which is that you can't fix crappy parenting.

I would take issue with the statement All parents, regardless of how much they earn, knew the importance of education. I don't think this is the case at all.

We live in a relatively affluent area. High employment, lots of SAHPs through choice. The primary schools are universally good - all 2s with the occasional 1 at Ofsted.

Standing outside my son's Y1 classroom at pick up time last week, one mother commented to her friend 'I don't even know the name of the teacher, haha!'. Her friend said 'oh it is Mrs X' (who is actually the TA but better than nothing).
That woman's daughter didn't have her book bag with her once last week (I know this because I help out with reading in class). She never reads at home, her reading journal is empty except for entries made in school. She is often absent, random days here and there.
This poor child has no chance, because her parents clearly don't give a shit about her education. Yesterday I was behind them walking out of the playground. The girl's school shoes were broken and falling off her feet. She asked her Mum if they could go and get some new ones 'no I haven't got any fucking money have I' she said, while puffing on her cigarette and climbing into her (admittedly battered) BMW convertible.

No amount of money thrown at school is going to help that poor girl.

brambleandapple Thu 10-Oct-13 11:31:47

I don't actually think money is the issue. Attitudes and pre-conceptions are.

A Middle Class lifestyle is seen as aspirational and as long as it is seen as such, everything that goes along with it, including educational success, tends to be attached to the Middle Classes.

Pouring money onto a situation does not change this. I actually think that taking the pressure off the education system, having more equal funding policies that are not attached to attainment or poverty would help and less assessment would help.

I am aware that this is counter intuitive, but I think it is the over pressured environment that encourages people within the teaching profession to 'cheat the system', in order to gain more funding, which in turn only perpetuates these prejudices.

brambleandapple Thu 10-Oct-13 11:46:13

^ I don't like the idea that schools should not have to be 'compensated' for their intake being 'poor'. To my mind this is a form of prejudice, I suppose some term it 'positive discrimination'. I prefer an equal playing field but one which is inclusive and by nature does not bar any sector of the community from the outset, rather than just lobbing a load of money at the 'poor'.

Those who are from disadvantaged backgrounds - I'm assuming they're less likely to have all the extras. Plus worrying about food etc probably means school is seen as a luxury.

I grew up in a poor household - some days I didn't have bus fare to get in to school.

gazzalw Thu 10-Oct-13 11:47:31

At DD's primary there are plenty of children on the low-achieving tables whose mothers seem to have latest 'must-have' bags/shoes everything else. Strangely enough, even though they have money for personal embellishments they are the same parents whose DCs never ever go on the residential school trips which might enhance their children's wider social educationhmm

brambleandapple Thu 10-Oct-13 11:52:42

If an education is 'child centred' and inclusive and genuinely caters for an individual intake, why would that mean more funds are needed?

Surely children should just make good progress form their own starting points and not have to conform to any particular manufactured standard.

It is attaching the standards and arguing about them, in the first place that is at fault. This is where people start to attempt to 'cheat' the figures and in order for this to be believable the old 'blame game' begins which seems to perpetuate beliefs concerning our class system.

brambleandapple Thu 10-Oct-13 11:57:04

At DD's primary there are plenty of children on the low-achieving tables whose mothers seem to have latest 'must-have' bags/shoes everything else. Strangely enough, even though they have money for personal embellishments they are the same parents whose DCs never ever go on the residential school trips which might enhance their children's wider social education

Education is also supposed to be free. It should not matter whether parents will make voluntary contributions. Go on free trips around the local area, if the teaching is good, it will be worth while. Education does not have to be all 'bells and whistles'.

if you're not managing to teach children to read and write effectively in primary school with 6hrs a day and what 6yrs? at your disposal you are doing something wrong that will only be fixed by facing what that is and remedying it - not by throwing money in. yes i know there are exceptions but those exceptions should have nothing to do with class and money unless you are expecting parents to teach the skills that you're failing to teach with all of the time, professional expertise and resources at your disposal.

it's not about the money it's about the reliance on parents to teach what schools used to manage to teach and when you do rely on parents then of course children of less literate or less motivated or ground down by poverty and depression or just plain naff parents aren't going to do well.

we don't need to throw more money we need to find a way back to teachers teaching kids to read and write and do maths instead of fannying about with all the fun right on stuff.

brambleandapple Thu 10-Oct-13 13:43:53

Just realised my glaring typo. My earlier 11.46 post should read "I don't like the idea schools should have to be 'compensated' for their intake being 'poor'."

This is because I do believe 'poor' children have as much potential as any other children. However for it not to remain locked away their education should suit their needs not some external manufactured 'standard'.

Schools should genuinely adapt more to their intake, encourage the children by building on their own interests and experiences and not rely on their parents to fill in the gaps. So less homework, trips or workshops which require monetary contributions, lessons which 'require volunteers', bought in schemes, assessment tracking software, fingerprint recognition systems and bought in curriculums and more professional expertise, teachers who can work genuinely to differentiate and tailor lessons to their intake. I think this is far more valuable than assessments and standards and extra funding for sectors of the population.

DavidYoung Thu 10-Oct-13 13:59:03

The solution to almost everything that is wrong with the taxpayer-funded part of children's education has been known for decades. Its only opponents have been teachers on practically indestructible contracts.


Deregulate the whole of education and you remove the postcode lottery, state interference, and everything else that a school's PTA doesn't want. You also see a significant reduction in the cost, as can be expected from a free market.

brambleandapple Thu 10-Oct-13 14:10:46

Interesting idea.....DavidYoung

However I also believe that a child should expect to be able to attend a school which is local to them, within walking distance. How much of a free market will this mean there is?

it wouldn't be of course - you'd have the same competition for places and unofficial selection to cream off the best parents children and the wrong sort of parent next to the right kind of schools would be forced to travel miles and miles to get a place.

the only way a free market operates is through their being enough supply to make competition realistic. there aren't enough school places let alone enough near enough to walk to to have real competition.

there not their sorry - i'm losing it lately on the literacy front.

DavidYoung Fri 11-Oct-13 12:04:37

In a deregulated market, anyone who reckons they know how to run a school could set one up. They would answer to their customers, as a combination of their vouchers and whatever additional fees they charge would only continue to enter their business's bank account if they were able to persuade them not to go somewhere else.

Someone somewhere would be offering the bare-bones, cheapest school within walking distance, because they have found a way to do so and still make enough of a profit out of it to put bread on the table.

Someone else would be charging slightly more with the sales pitch of 'Look, if you send your kids to us, we'll pay for a remedial teacher for the children with the irresponsible parents so the rest of the class aren't held back'.

Someone else would be saying 'We're the most expensive in your neck of the woods, but look how many dressage champions we turn out!'.

A large number of parents looking for a school in their area which they can order about as they see fit looks like a market to me. Deregulate, and people will offer services in that market in exchange for anything that gives them an income.

brambleandapple Fri 11-Oct-13 14:02:00

DavidYoung You're not selling the idea to me I'm afraid.

'a remedial teacher for the children with the irresponsible parents' <<you're not making friends david.

Spottybra Sat 12-Oct-13 12:18:13

It would appear that the solution lies not with more money but with our current system and government.

Able children should be grouped together and deserve not to have lessons disrupted. IMO the school day is far too long, especially for Foundation and KS1. Schools are there to educate and not babysit.

Those who disrupt should be given one chance in the morning and one chance in the afternoon to join their peers or receive tuition in a group with more TA's available to control and direct them. Their day should be longer because they need longer to settle and learn.

FSM are not any indication of a child's home life or ability or parental attitudes.

Personally I think Gove, Ofsted and SATs should all head the same way to never be seen again, year 7's should return to primary as 11 is too young and the 11+ exam brought back nationally. There is absolutely nothing wrong with vocational courses, speaking as someone whose genius IQ nephew has chosen a mixture of academic and vocational gcse courses because he struggles with dyslexia.

Education needs reform, but not academies and business.

brambleandapple Sat 12-Oct-13 12:25:48

Not an inclusionist then Spottybra? Children with poorly managed AN, SN or SEN do not deserve to be taught by teachers, should be just controlled and directed by TAs?

Spottybra Sat 12-Oct-13 12:46:02

No, they should have a teacher, I just meant the ta's should be there too.

able v disruptive? is that how you see inclusion and the breadth of educational needs then? dividable into these two groups?

Romibanana Sun 13-Oct-13 11:54:44

Totally agree with your point.
I am of similar example, our family never had much but somehow my parents always managed to hammer in my head that education is important. I left Czech rep when I was 18 and have done reasonable well here in the UK!
All through my own persistence, endurance and motivation! Qualities we as parents should be teaching our children regardless of our class status!

because of course the only thing that determines how well a child will do at school is their, 'persistence, endurance and motivation!'.

sturdyoak Sun 13-Oct-13 15:53:59

'persistence, endurance and motivation!'.

I think you definitely need these qualities. However it is not all you need. You need to know where and how to put your efforts to best use. You need an education system that does not present barriers to certain children. This is one which does not rely on parental support. For example, some parents are not able to practise reading with their children (may have literacy issues themselves), some homes do not have a quiet area to study in.

DavidYoung Mon 14-Oct-13 09:21:29

If you want to keep some sort of education department in your government, then what you personally think is the best way to run a school amounts to hardly anything. The system will change with every new administration.

Remove government from the equation and you have more say in the matter.

Incidentally, can someone tell me what a remedial teacher in a mainstream school does that cannot be better achieved with more responsible parenting?

sturdyoak Mon 14-Oct-13 10:40:38

Incidentally, can someone tell me what a remedial teacher in a mainstream school does that cannot be better achieved with more responsible parenting?

So a teacher's expertise counts for nothing?

If a teacher is supposed to teach and a parent supposed to parent and a child is not achieving in the the educational sense, where does the responsibility lie?

If a child has a medically recognised condition, which presents some barriers to learning, does it take merely more responsible parenting to solve this?

If a child's parents, with the best will in the world, cannot offer support to a school, due to their own responsibilities in society, does that child still deserve a good education?

Remove government from the equation and you have more say in the matter.

Are you an anarchist?

DavidYoung Mon 14-Oct-13 11:46:39

Medically recognised and real are not always the same thing.

Mentally handicapped, blind, deaf and confined to a hospital bed would be examples of both, but I would question whether the child's best interests were served by a mainstream school.

Mentally ill, on the other hand, is a medically recognised myth.

Being a slower-than-average learner can be compensated for by spending more time at home on school work. That's free.

Having a poor attention span or being disruptive in a classroom can be fixed by responsible parenting. That's also free.

Of course, there will always be parents who believe that there are things called mental illnesses such as ADHD. However, none of these can even be described in falsifiable terms. Evidence, of the double-blind clinical study variety, is conspicuous by its absence. Naturally, parents who think poor behaviour is none of their fault are numerous, but that also makes them a large enough group to pay for a school that panders to them.

At the same time, parents who can teach their children self-control and to work hard at things they find difficult may also find enough like-minded people to make another school economically viable.

Both groups are going to be at odds with the government at some stage. Cut out the middle man and the arguments about who should be doing what in their school are confined to the parents' meetings.

Add to this that nobody has to pay for a government minister or department and it seems everyone's a winner.

sturdyoak Mon 14-Oct-13 13:19:44


There is a lot we do not know concerning brain physiology and the factors which can cause changes to it, granted. Ditto the rest of our physiology. Of course over-medicalisation can have its own issues in these circumstances.

However to totally disregard some very serious illnesses, which can have very serious consequences would be extremely foolish. Would you leave parents to deal with a severe schizophrenic episode (which certainly would be disruptive in class), for example, by simply advising more homework?

No, I expect more is needed.

Of course parents can do a lot. Any one person's influence can absolutely be the catalyst that totally transforms somebody's life. It is difficult to predict who that person will be, you cannot legislate for it.

This is why good education can give children better life chances, it broadens their horizons. This type of education involves teachers and schools doing all that is within their power to educate well, being truly proactive, not just get by, give up and put all the blame elsewhere for any problems. If you want to tackle inequality in our society, education is a good place to start.

It is difficult to see where you are coming from, to be quite honest. Views like the ones you hold are so extreme and lacking in compassion, I find them quite bizarre.

sturdyoak Mon 14-Oct-13 13:31:17

Now if you are asking whether some unscrupulous people capitalise on diagnoses given to children? Undoubtedly the answer is yes,


This does mean the money is not being well spent.

Medically recognised and real are not always the same thing.

This Is My Child.

mental illness is a MYTH?!?!? shock

gosh, all the poor folks suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar, psychotic episodes of a non specified nature, clinical depression etc etc should be told! they'll feel so much better knowing it was all in their imagination.

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

p.s. very few people survive that crash and come through the other side - those who do hold the four aces and graduate into real life with a gold star of compassion and intelligence. i hope you make it.

DavidYoung Tue 15-Oct-13 10:41:57

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

sturdyoak Tue 15-Oct-13 11:04:56

DavidYoung Maybe the the lazy badly behaved child could actually legitimately receive a diagnosis of ADHD.

As I have said there is a lot we do not know concerning brain physiology.

Have you read any of the Epigenetic research which shows changes at a genetic level, lasting 2 and 3 generations when a person has been subjected to a particular environment? Post traumatic stress disorder was one of the conditions where this was noted.

This would suggest people can have certain pre-dispositions towards a certain mental state but that also environment can subsequently effect this state, negatively or positively.

So we should offer compassion to those that are suffering, people genuinely come from different starting points. Until you have genuinely 'walked in their shoes' you simply are not qualified to blame them for their present state. Equally writing their cause off as hopeless, simply 'will not do' either.

sturdyoak Tue 15-Oct-13 11:09:04


Here you go DavidYoung some reading.

DavidYoung Tue 15-Oct-13 13:21:08

Richard Hunter's research falls far short of a falsifiable definition of even one mental illness.

I would suggest that scepticism is a more healthy attitude to adopt towards something which is so uncritically accepted by both education and health departments, especially where even a meaningful definition cannot be found.

Incidentally, your argument can be and, whether you like it or not, is applied both ways. Nobody needs to believe the claims of someone allegedly suffering from a mental illness until they themselves have experienced exactly the same life circumstances. That does of course mean that you will have fewer people, and not more, regarding mental illness as something real.

That would be an interesting phenomenon to observe: a Member of Parliament being petitioned by parents of 'special-needs' children for some form of legislative change replying with 'I had no personal experience of being a special-needs child when I was at school, nor do I have any personal experience of mental illness. For that reason, I will abstain from any vote on the subject in parliament.' I take it you would agree with such a stance.

sturdyoak Tue 15-Oct-13 13:43:17

DavidYoung There is a body of research on this subject. I included one article just as an example.

The research is informative because it does throw up questions concerning differing people's coping abilities.

'Walking in other peoples shoes', is used as an expression to highlight the wisdom in compassion, Epistemic Humility if you like. I agree it is not likely a person will know, or have experienced everything there is to know about another.

However, unlike yourself it would seem, I feel this only highlights the validity in being merciful regarding judgements, rather than harsh. Added to this there are enough people out there, for whom mental illness is a very real and frightening experience for it to be worth giving them consideration.

Why do you think it is justifiable to leave these people to flounder?

sturdyoak Tue 15-Oct-13 13:49:23

Added to this I am no sceptic. Belief is an important part of life, without assumptions we cannot function or progress.

sturdyoak Tue 15-Oct-13 13:52:57

DavidYoung I think you might have confused being sceptical with becoming septic!

sturdyoak Tue 15-Oct-13 14:07:54

DavidYoung Your views seem so off the wall, I'm curious. What do you actually care about, hold dear?

KateSMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 15-Oct-13 16:13:16


We welcome robust debate, but we do think it's beyond the pale to insult children with additional needs and their parents. Our page busting the myth around [[ but we think it's beyond the pale to insult children with additional needs and their parents behavioural disorders]] can provide more information on this topic.

just seen i've been deleted - not sure why as i thought i had talked generally about life rather than personally insulted david.

just so it's really clear i wasn't deleted for insulting children with or parents of children with special needs. i must have insulted david unwittingly.

VelvetStrider Wed 16-Oct-13 08:08:57

I'm confused as to how an income of £17,000 constitutes 'poverty'. confused Some years that is roughly our income, and it provides more than enough for good food, after school clubs, holidays (UK), two cars, household necessities and a few luxuries. The only reason I can think of as to why this wouldn't be enough for most families is that housing is too expensive - that's the crux of the financial aspects of this issue.

likewise 17k sounds a lot to me. that's just above my current household income and ds and i went to egypt this summer. i choose not to run a car which probably helps but i really wouldn't consider myself and ds impoverished or his educational development hampered confused

tbh i was living on about 12k all in when ds started school and again i didn't feel like we were in 'poverty'. <wanders off wondering if i'm so used to being poor now i don't even notice...>

have been reflecting on the above and clearly it's not about money is it?

you can, as i was, be massively skint in societies terms yet not be impoverished in the sense they're talking about. skint with a good education behind you and genuine concern for your child's development does not result in the kind of issues being presented. likewise having no education and no concern for your child's welfare but having a fair bit of cash probably would result in these outcomes.

the focus on 'money' as the common denominator is though the obvious thing to point at if you're a charity and rely on 'give us your money and we'll fix the world' publicity.

DavidYoung Wed 16-Oct-13 10:17:28

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

i was off tracking down evidence to discount your out of date views and then i realised your post will be deleting in a moment for repeating your deleted post which you've already been told was offensive and unacceptable on this site.

incidentally though karl popper's falsification theory is but one epistemological theory. you seem overly reliant on it.

sturdyoak Wed 16-Oct-13 10:44:25


It was once fashionable to diagnose a woman who refused to accept the authority of her husband as suffering from the mental illness of hysteria. It isn't fashionable now.

I acknowledge there have been abuses suffered in the name of psychiatry and I acknowledge the controversy surrounding the over medicalisation of some psychological issues. I am aware of Foucault's views, for example, regarding the disturbing relationship between power and being deemed qualified to label somebody as insane. The link I made to another MN thread earlier does indeed show how some capitalise on other's difficulties. So I agree not all is 'clear-cut'.

However if somebody is genuinely suffering I also believe that people must do all that is within their power to help. A lot of people with psychological issues do feel helped by medical practitioners. As I asked before, would you leave these people to flounder?

sturdyoak Wed 16-Oct-13 11:06:37

DavidYoung I only hope you are not singing this when you are old.


DavidYoung Wed 16-Oct-13 11:40:34

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

sturdyoak Wed 16-Oct-13 11:45:11

DavidYoung So what do you suggest should happen concerning people who are suffering psychologically, to such an extent, it is likely they will harm themselves or others?

david you're wrong. five minutes on google would show you. neural imaging would be a good starting point.

DavidYoung Wed 16-Oct-13 12:53:24

Neural imaging has never been used to provide any falsifiable definition of a so-called mental illness. A mental illness is, and has always been, defined as nothing more than a list of alleged symptoms.

There will always be parents who believe in the mental-health myth and there will usually be some who see through it, in much the same way that there will probably always be some parents who believe in demon possession or that their children's poor performance at school is due to 'all these foreigners practising their voodoo, I mean you don't know what they get up to behind closed doors, do you?'.

Complete deregulation means that each group can squabble among themselves as to what should go on inside their schools. The one thing they would all have in common is that none of them would be complaining about incompetent government bureaucrats interfering in their children's education.

And of course if at some stage the shrink-obsessed school genuinely comes up with something that has demonstrably beneficial results, the sceptical parents may well say 'I have seen the light! I'll send my children to your school instead.'

The rest is just market forces.

Um, leaving aside how grossly offensive it is for you to use the phrase "so-called mental illness" and patronising inverted commas all over the place...

... if a child with a diagnosis does not respond to interventions that work for children without that diagnosis, but does respond to strategies that work for other children with a similar diagnosis, then that at the very least proves the efficacy of the alternative strategy for those children presenting with the same symptoms?

I really don't give a shiny shit whether a diagnosis is empirically provable or not, if said diagnosis allows the patient to access help and make progress.

Saying "you can't have any help because your problem is qualitative" is cuntery.

sturdyoak Wed 16-Oct-13 13:19:57

DavidYoung I am curious, what has brought you to this viewpoint, how is it informed?

I believe, whilst we may not know all there is to know concerning mental health and illness, there are certainly psychological symptoms, which can be observed. Unfortunately, people who may want to capitalise on this, can cloud the validity of diagnosis somewhat.

What remains though, is people who need help, people who recover with help and granted, some that recover without help. However some don't recover, some of them become severely disturbed and go on to harm themselves or others, which I would hope you would want to prevent.

So what do you think should be done?

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now