End the classroom divide

There is a close relationship between education and poverty: poverty worsens educational outcomes, and lower attainment at school increases the chance of poverty later in life. To maximise the talents of all our children and improve life chances the education system needs to recognise the reality of child poverty, and work to counteract its worst effects as far as possible.

  •          Costs of education. State education, described as free at the point of delivery, requires significant expenditure by families. Uniforms, equipment and other essentials all cost: research estimates that families spend on average £648 per child in primary school, which rises to £1,195 per child in secondary school. Without grants, many low-income families struggle to cover these costs. Read more about CPAG in Scotland’s work on the cost of the school day.
  •          Limits on extra-curricular activities. Parents often need to pay for rewarding and creative activities in schools such as trips or music lessons. Although schemes exist to provide support for children from low-income families to access such activities, in practice they are underutilised through lack of knowledge or associated stigma.
  •          Quality of education. Research shows that children from low-income families are under-represented at the best performing schools. Programmes that provide incentives for the most experienced teachers to work in deprived areas, and high levels of support and training for such teachers, are vital if children from poorer backgrounds are to flourish.
  •          Leaving school. Children growing up in poverty are less likely to stay on in education and more likely to leave early without qualifications: Department for Education data shows that 16.2 percent are currently not in education or training. Without action, the UK’s education system will continue failing these children.

The government has highlighted its commitment to education investments as part of its social mobility agenda. However, a recent report has questioned the government’s plans to introduce a single national formula which will determine the funding each school will receive, suggesting that schools in deprived areas will lose most under this scheme.


In order for the classroom divide to become a thing of the past, CPAG urges the government to provide effective and targeted support for low-income families as well as for schools and teachers in deprived areas.