Re-thinking Educational Attainment and Poverty (G. S. ap Gruffudd, L. Spencer, J. Payne, A. Wilde, R. Watkins, S. Jones, E. Thomas, C. Hughes and B. O’Connor)
The aim of the REAP research was to investigate the factors which effect poverty in rural education. The research was commissioned by the regional educational consortia ERW and GwE in February 2016 and was an eighteen-month study completed in October 2017. Data were collected during the 2016–17 academic year from 32,831 pupils, teachers, school managers and local authority officers across five separate phases of a mixed-method research project.
We found that there are multiple factors that affect educational attainment, and poverty is only one of these factors. In Phase 1, school managers discussed what schools are doing to tackle disadvantage and poverty within rural school settings in Wales to reduce the inequalities in education between those who are living in deprivation and those who have more means. One of the main findings for Phase 1 was that effort and pragmatic initiatives from teachers aid the engagement of disadvantaged pupils. Phase 2 showed that rurality does not confound the effects of poverty and issues such as additional learning needs, attendance and poverty are substantial predictors of educational attainment. Phase 3 findings added to the evidence that poverty impacts on children and young people’s experience and enjoyment of education in school. Phase 4 provided evidence that there seems to be a disparity between national policy directive on tackling poverty and how this is facilitated locally through local authorities. Phase 5 provided further evidence to reinforce the themes found in Phase 1. School managers from across twelve local authorities in Wales provided comments illustrating tackling poverty is a complex issue, and should include engagement with cultural issues, the aspirations of parents, the culture of benefits and the need to recognise and understand that many parents work long hours in low-paid jobs in Wales, and have limited time to spend undertaking educational type activities with their children. We also made recommendations regarding the way forward in tackling poverty and educational attainment.