UK schools are segregated along class lines, leaving the poorest children struggling to achieve against poverty and deprivation, a teacher’s leader warned yesterday.
Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said stratified schools are “toxic” for deprived youngsters as it means they fail to learn important qualities such as aspiration and effort from their richer classmates.
It is the coalition Government’s “dirty little secret” that their education cuts and reforms are making the lives of the poorest children tougher, she suggested.
And she raised concerns that schools are held up as the scapegoat for educational failure, accusing Ministers and Ofsted of “seeking to wash their hands, like Pontius Pilate” of the problem.
In her speech to ATL’s annual conference in Manchester, Dr Bousted said: “We have, in the UK, schools whose intakes are stratified along class lines.
“We have schools for the elite; schools for the middle class and schools for the working class. Too few schools have mixed intakes where children can learn those intangible life skills of aspiration, effort and persistence from one another.
“The effect of unbalanced school intakes is toxic for the poorest and most dispossessed.
“And whilst teachers and school leaders strain every sinew in these schools to raise aspiration and achievement, they struggle always against the effects of poverty, ill health and depravation and children in these schools routinely fail to make the educational progress achieved by their more advantaged peers.”
Dr Bousted argued that “this coalition Government’s attacks on poor children is a blight upon our conception of ourselves as a civilised society”.
She claimed that the Government has cut funding for Sure Start centres, scrapped the education maintenance allowance for poorer teenagers and removed protected funding for school meals.