Neil Mathers: How Poverty Threatens Children’s Rights
Neil Mathers of Save the Children examines the scale of poverty in Scotland and how we can begin to bridge the attainment gap for our children
I'm Neil Mathers. I'm Head of Scotland for Save the Children. In Scotland, we believe that poverty threatens children's rights across the country. One in five children are growing up in poverty, and that this both is a destructive force on children's lives now, but also damages their prospects for the future. So Save The Children's very much focused on delivering campaigns and programs that really tackle that attainment gap. A key message for us is that the scale of this challenge isn't just isolated to pockets of deprivation in Scotland, this is a widespread issue for the whole of Scotland with all local authorities having children living in poverty within their areas. And nearly half have levels of one in three children living in poverty. So we know that the gap in education starts at a very early stage, before children even reach the age of three. That it impacts on their cognitive development and their language skills, and if we're going to help children to get the best out of their education, then we really need to tackle that as soon as we can. But early learning and focusing on that isn't going to be the silver bullet. It's not going to protect children from falling behind later in the education system, so we need to really look at a pipeline of support for children, starting in the early years, but maintaining that throughout their primary school and into secondary school. Some simple things that we can do, particularly at school, is looking at poverty-proofing a school. understanding the impact of poverty and how that plays out in the school environment. So simple things like meeting the cost of basic essentials like pens, jotters, pencils. Things like that really have an impact on children who come from low-income households. Access to affordable trips and out-of-school activities and activities that involve parents can also make a big difference. For us, families are absolutely key to looking beyond the school gates, really, to support children's learning. And I think we can do much more to support families, to understand what goes on at nursery, and school and replicate that in the home environment. So that all children can grow up able to read well and get the most out of their education.