Material deprivation can be defined as the inability to afford basic resources and services such as sufficient food and heating. Material deprivation generally has a negative effect on educational achievement.
Gibson and Asthana (1999) pointed out that there is a correlation between low household income and poor educational performance. There are a number of ways in which poverty can negatively affect the educational performance of children. For example –
- Higher levels of sickness in poorer homes may mean more absence from school and falling behind with lessons
- Less able to afford ‘hidden costs’ of free state education: books and toys are not bought, and computers are not available in the home
- Tuition fees and loans would be a greater source of anxiety to those from poorer backgrounds.
- Poorer parents are less likely to have access to pre-school or nursery facilities.
- Young people from poorer families are more likely to have part-time jobs, such as paper rounds, baby sitting or shop work, creating a conflict between the competing demands of study and paid work.
Supporting evidence for the importance of material deprivation
- Stephen Ball (2005) points out how the introduction of marketisation means that those who have more money have a greater choice of state schools because of selection by mortgage
- Conner et al (2001) and Forsyth and Furlong (2003) both found that the introduction of tuition fees in HE puts working class children off going to university because of fear of debt
- Leon Fenstein (2003) found that low income is related to low cognitive reasoning skills amongst children as young as two years old
- The existence of private schools means the wealthy can afford a better education. Children from private schools are over-represented in the best universities
Evaluations of the role of material deprivation
- To say that poverty causes poor educational performance is too deterministic as some students from poor backgrounds do well. Because of this, one must be cautious and rather than say there is a causal relationship between these two variables as the question suggests, it would be more accurate to say that poverty disadvantages working class students and makes it more difficult for them to succeed.
- There are other differences between classes that may lead to working class underachievement. For example, those from working class backgrounds are not just materially deprived, they are also culturally deprived.
- The Cultural Capital of the middle classes also advantages them in education.
- In practise it is difficult to separate out material deprivation from these other factors.