A high-profile philanthropist has labelled evidence that poverty affects children’s ability to do well in school a “a tragic indictment on modern society.”
Sutton Trust chairman Sir Peter Lampl described as shocking the findings of a study by his organisation to be released on Monday which show that the language skills of the poorest children in Britain are almost a year behind their richer peers.
Of 12,644 five-year-olds who were monitored in 2006 and 2007, just 45 per cent from the poorest fifth of families were ready to read daily by the age of three compared to 78 per cent of children from the richest fifth of families.
The study also showed “the stark educational disadvantage experienced by children from poorer homes before they have even stepped into the school classroom” – the poorest parents in the survey had no GCSEs at grade C or above, while four in five of the richest were educated to degree level.
Sources said the report confirmed that after 12 years of Labour government Britain is the most unequal society in western Europe.
Against a background of over half a billion pounds worth of cuts in higher education – unparalleled in the public sector – Mr Lampl warned against reducing funds that helped disadvantaged children to go to university.
“It is a tragic indictment on modern society that our children’s future life prospects depend so much on their family background, not their individual talents,” he said.
But he also claimed that “good parenting” – such as reading to children on a daily basis, or taking them to libraries, museums and galleries – could “overcome some of the negative impacts that poverty can have on children’s early development.”
The study found that wealthier parents with more free time would be more likely to take their kids on cultural activities.
Left-leaning think tank Compass highlighted the way in which poverty and wealth is inherited by subsequent generations last month.
It found that university graduates are disproportionately more likely to be from better-off backgrounds.
A mere 4 per cent of pupils eligible for free school meals go on to higher education, compared to 33 per cent of those who are ineligible.
Taken from Morning Star