On Tuesday, I got to experience myself just how much of an impact a child’s background has on their ability to do well in school. I have read many articles on closing the attainment gap and how children from deprived areas are not as likely to be successful in school, I know that this is a huge problem in Scotland and I’m aware that teachers, social workers and CLD workers have to do everything in their power to help fix this. However, I am very lucky to have grown up in a small village where this isn’t common, therefore I haven’t been able to relate the issue to myself to see how real it is. This lesson really helped me to do that. Although the lesson was based off of materials we had been given that day and not based off of our actual family background, I still feel was able to get a better sense of how much the resources you have, or don’t have, affects children in their school lives.
In the workshop, we were split into four groups of roughly 6 people, and each group was given an envelope containing resources such as paper, pens, paperclips etc… We were then told we had to make a product for a first year student out of only the resources we were given, and we were then going to present this item to the class. What I didn’t realise, was that two of the groups (groups three and four) weren’t given as many resources as my group and the neighbouring one. I also never realised that the attitude our lecturer was showing groups three and four was inattentive and he was showing no interest in their product, telling them it wasn’t very good and saying he was disappointed in it. However, to my group, he was very keen to know more about our invention, he told us it was a brilliant idea which boosted our confidence when it came to presenting. When presenting, group four mentioned they didn’t think they were treated fairly and that they couldn’t do as well as us since they never had the same resources we did, so their product couldn’t be as good as the products made in group one and two. This is when our lecturer told us he was acting the whole time, and the exercise we had just done was set up to show us the effects of not having the things you need to do well in school and the impact this has on a child. It really opened my eyes to how even showing favouritism to certain children can really have a negative impact on those who don’t feel that they’re seen in the same light, or aren’t focused on as much. This is why professional values such as social justice are so important, the way you treat every child in the classroom will have such a large influence on them, so it is important to treat them all as equal and to allocate the same amount of attention to all, no matter what background they come from or what race, gender or ethnicity they are. Group four, for example, were to represent a child in poverty: with an unstable home life; no extra reading after school to help them understand things better; perhaps no decent meals for the child to get nutrients and properly develop, whereas group one were to represent a child from a structured home, with parents who invest time in them and always make sure their child is happy, healthy and fully equipped with everything they need. We seen the impacts on both groups based on their situation and it was very clear that group one were so much more successful than group four. Professional commitment is crucial here as by working together with social and CLD workers, we are able to help a child who needs it in more than one aspect of their life. Teachers can only do so much and can really only go as far as the classroom, but working with other people in the educational community we can help children at home and in the community.
Children from affluent areas are born with an immediate advantage. They’ll have a better diet from the day they’re born as parents in poverty may not have enough money to buy better quality food, meaning that children from better off families will be more developed, physically and mentally by the time they reach primary one. With a better quality of life, they are more likely to do well in school, perhaps go on to enrol in further education and become successful adults, meanwhile children from deprived areas may not see education as a priority or the importance of it may no be emphasised at home, since they have to focus more on figuring out where their next meal will be coming from, or even how to pay for heating and other things that children in affluent families don’t have to think about. This could result in deprived children leaving school early, not being able to find a adequate job and continuing to live in a cycle of poverty.
I found the workshop incredibly thought provoking. I was in one of the better off groups but I was able to see that the lack of resources the other groups had hindered their ability to do well, through no fault of their own and it was just what they had been given. It’s very much like that in real life with children in deprivation, they haven’t chosen that lifestyle but it is unfortunately the circumstance they’re in, so they are unable to reach their full potential. Teachers, social workers and CLD workers all need to show integrity, trust and respect to every child and to all colleagues so children are shown the correct way to behave, and feel that they can approach adults if they need help. By treating all children equally and making school a place where children feel accepted and encouraged, we can help them get a better start to their lives and help them create a bright future.