Child poverty: experience and statistics

Published: 7th Apr 2015

Last updated 08/04/2015

On Easter Sunday—a slow news day in the secular world—BBC News picked up on a survey of teachers in which many report that financial pressure on pupils' families is having an impact on their learning.

The survey was conducted by the NASUWT teachers' union. It's also recently published results from a similar survey on unqualified teachers (we'll be looking into this separately).

But these surveys don't necessarily show what's happening in all schools.

NASUWT told us that it got its data by emailing members asking them to fill the surveys in online. The information is based only on people who chose to do this.

As BBC story notes, this means that the survey "was not a representative sample of teachers".

So while there's no reason to doubt the accounts of teachers who see children in distress, we don't know whether, for instance, those who responded to the survey happen to work in poorer areas. There are any number of reasons why the results of a 'self-selecting' survey like this may not represent the picture across all UK schools.

In this case it might have been clearer to focus on the fact that hundreds of teachers were reporting these conditions, rather than what proportion of respondents they made up.

The article features a long-standing claim that the number of children in poverty has "fallen by 300,000 under the coalition government".

Debate about child poverty is tricky, because there are different ways of measuring it that say different things.

The 300,000 figure is accurate for the reduced number of children in relative poverty in 2012/13, compared to the last year under Labour.

The number of children in absolute poverty, though, is up by 200,000.

Both these poverty figures mask flaws—take a look at our full factcheck for the all-important detail.

Update 08/04/15: The headline of this post was amended along with some of the phrasing, to focus on the claims rather than the people making them.


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