This post provides some qualitative sources of data which explore what it’s like to be poor in Britain today, follows on from a previous post on ‘defining and measuring material deprivation in the UK’ .
One of the things you need to look at for the AS Education module is the extent to which material deprivation is responsible for educational underachievement. While statistics give you an overview of the extent of poverty, and a little bit of information of the kind of things poor people can’t afford, they don’t give you much a feeling of what it’s like to actually live in poverty.
To get a feeling for day to day challenges of living in poverty you need more qualitative sources, and ‘thankfully’ we are blessed with a number of recent documentaries which look at the experience of living with material deprivation in the UK.
Watch the documentary sources below and then answer the questions/ contribute to the discussions below. The videos have all been selected because they focus on material deprivation and education in some way.
This 2011 documentary from the BBC focuses mainly on the experience of younger children in the U.K.
Britain’s Hungry Children
(A Channel 4 Report, 2013)
Cites research drawn from 2500 food diaries kept by children in the UK – Some of whom live on less than half of the recommended calories. Also highlights the importance of lunch clubs to feed hungry children.
Finally watch this video – This shows you a case study of one girl from a poor background who actually made it into the best school in the area, against the odds. It’s a bit slow, but later on it gives an insight into the struggle her mum faces to raise enough cash to meet the ‘hidden costs’ of education (she has to resort to a ‘pay day loan’).
Questions/ tasks for discussion:
Q1: Draw an ‘ageline’ (like a timeline, I may have just invented the word) showing how material deprivation affects 3 year olds to 18 year olds in different ways.
Q2: From a broadly Marxist Perspective, the effects of material deprivation on children are structural, or objective if you like. Being brought up in poverty and having a poorer diet, and living in lower quality housing effectively cause poor children to do less well in education. This means that, all other (non material) things being equal (same school, same intelligence, same motivation etc) a poor kid will always do worse than a rich kid. Do you agree? Be prepared to explain your answer.
Signposting and Related Posts
This material is useful as part of an introductory module in sociology.
You might also like this related post: The effects of material deprivation on education
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