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Early experience is vital in tackling persistent poverty – shows report


Children who are poor but have parents who take an interest in their schooling and read to them when they are young are more likely to pull themselves out of poverty, new research published today shows.

The report, called Bucking the Trend, also builds on earlier research showing the importance of work for parents if their children are to break out of cycles of deprivation. Children who live in poverty are more likely to grow up to be poor, with 16-year-olds growing up in a household where no parent works at higher risk of still being in poverty at age 30.

A father’s level of interest in his son’s education has a significant impact on how well he does at school and a mother’s interest has a big impact on the performance of her daughter in the classroom, according to the study commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions.

It also shows that early educational achievement is key if a child in a poor household is to lift themselves out of poverty by the age of 30. It finds that parents can play a central role in influencing how well their offspring do.

Jim Murphy, Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform, welcomed the findings of the report.

He said: "Tackling child poverty is our number one priority. This research shows that children who get the right early years environment are more likely to get good qualifications and develop the skills and confidence needed to hold down a decent job as adults.

"We are working across Government to improve poor children’s life prospects, in education, at home and in their future employment and 800,000 children have already been lifted out of poverty.

"As the Secretary of State John Hutton said last week, a new strategy, to be published alongside ’Opportunity for All’ in the Autumn, will show how the Government can make faster progress in reaching its goal of halving child poverty by 2010 and ending it completely by 2020.

"We need to ensure that everyone who can work has the support they need to do so and the chance to develop their skills. Giving people the opportunity to work is the only sustainable long-term route out of poverty."

The main findings of the report which was authored by Jo Blanden of the University of Surrey, Department of Economics are:

For boys having a father with little or no interest in their education reduces their chances of bucking the trend by 25%, and the same can be said of girls and their mothers.

Those born in poverty are more likely to better their position if their parents have some qualifications, read to them as children and take an interest in their schooling.

Early educational attainment is positively related to avoiding disadvantage in later life. Those who are poor at age 30 are 15% to 20% more likely to have been in the low education group at 16 and have fewer qualifications.

The stronger performance of those who go on to escape poverty begins early with observable differences in test scores as young as five.

Around 20% of those who are poor at 16 are still poor at 30 compared with only 7% of those who are not poor at age 16, showing the importance of measures against persistent poverty.

Emma Pearson | alfa
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