Evidence Hub

conduction icon

Does tackling poverty-related barriers to education improve school outcomes? 

Primary school pupils

Does tackling poverty-related barriers to education improve school outcomes? Evidence from the North East of England

One in three UK children are currently living in poverty.

Poverty Proofing© the school day is a nationally recognised programme, developed by Children North East, that works with schools to remove barriers for students living in poverty.

The scheme helps schools to identify the barriers that children living in poverty face, which can have an impact on the way they can engage with school life and its opportunities. It offers a pathway for schools to address often unseen inequalities within their activities, helping them reduce stigma, break the link between educational attainment and financial background, and supports schools to explore the most effective way to spend Pupil Premium.

This research involved primary schools in the North East, comparing 38 primary schools that had recently undergone Poverty Proofing, to the region’s other 292 primary schools.

Key findings

  • It found that pupils from all financial backgrounds benefitted from improvements in attainment.
  • Over a two-year period after schools took action to remove barriers for those living in poverty, scores improved by approximately 5%.

Who is this evidence useful for?

Schools and policy makers in education

What is the issue

Poverty holds back children. Schools cannot tackle poverty but they can mitigate the impact of poverty during the school day. The research aimed to establish whether removing poverty-based barriers in the school day could improve educational outcomes.

Research summary

The research team use data from local schools to compare those schools who undertake Poverty Proofing with similar school who do not. They looked at a range of school based outcomes, including Maths and English and progression.

They found that there is improvement in outcomes across all children in schools that had implemented Poverty Proofing. They also found similar results when they restricted their analysis to only those children in receipt of free school meals (FSM).

What the research found

The results demonstrate that removing poverty related barriers to education can improve school outcomes in terms of average grades and progress, especially in maths and English.

The analyses of pupils on FSM and not on FSM suggest the whole school benefits from tackling poverty, and not only those children who are potentially most affected by poverty.

Such benefits may stem from a reduction in disruption that arises from greater engagement from all pupils.

Why is this important?

This work suggests that removing the stigma of poverty at schools can help to improve educational outcomes. Improving educational outcomes can help to break the cycle of poverty.

Read more in this news item

Read the full research paper

Get in touch about this research

Lead researcher: Morgan Beeson

Email: [email protected]

Supported by: Professor John Wildman, Newcastle University

Email: [email protected]