‘Poverty-proofing’ of the classroom starts with teachers

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Teachers have been told not to ask a classroom of children what they did at the weekend an attempt to “poverty proof” schools.
 

Staff should not initiate group discussions about what activities pupils did during school holidays as this can lead to less well-off children feeling awkward and uncomfortable, according to the charity Children North East.

Luke Bramhall, who leads the organisation’s Poverty Proofing the School Day project, said that teachers must be sensitive in their choice of conversation topics to ensure pupils do not feel excluded.
 
“Students have told us at some schools, they have discussions after the holidays or after Christmas as a whole class. Students are asked to tell everyone what they got for Christmas,” he said.
 
“Students lie about what they got for Christmas because they want to fit in or they didn’t get as much as others."
Experts from Newcastle University found that the charity’s work in schools improves attendance, attainment and uptake of free school meals, trips and music tuition.
 
One headteacher banned fancy pencil cases after advice from the charity. Pauline Johnstone, head of St Wilfrid's Primary School in Blyth, Northumberland, has also introduced a standard backpack for pupils in a bid to make school life easier for disadvantaged children.
 
“As a school we had thought we did OK, it was all very equal and children didn't feel disadvantaged,” Mrs Johnstone said.
 
"It was quite difficult to listen to some of the feedback." Children reported it was "very obvious" that some of them did not have the same things everyone else had, she said.
 
The school took the decision to ban designer pencil cases - some of which can cost well over £10 - as well as no longer demanding parents make donations for pupils' dress down days and introducing a standard backpack.
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