Kim Allen – poverty still matters

There has been a rash of announcements from Sir Michael Wilshaw (Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills) in the last few days. Education in this fair isle has been battered, yet again, by the PISA results that locate us as very, very average in the global rankings.  Rather than blame the 30 years of GERM warfare our education has endured (read here) Sir Michael has come out swinging at teachers who “confuse friendliness with familiarity”, a “poverty of expectation”, and “background chatter, inattention and horseplay” (read here, here and here). These faults are presented as responsible for the ‘two nation’ gap in outcomes, where a ‘regional lottery’ consigns many children to an inadequate education. A key point from Sir Michael,

I suppose what I would say to them [regions that are struggling] is to raise your aspirations and make your aspirations for your young people really clear and that poverty is no barrier to success and I think that is what London has proved more than anything. (BBC 11/12/13)

So poverty as inability to afford things, payday loans, the stresses and hardships of want  and need, a lack of jobs for young people, elderly brothers and sisters not in education or training… are no longer a factor.  Read Ruth Levitas’ (2012) ‘The Just’s Umbrella: Austerity and the Big Society in Coalition policy and beyond‘ for a full catalogue of the state of the nation. The only real factors are bad teaching and poverty of aspirations… 

Normally when you read this stuff, and there’s a lot of it, don’t you just wish someone would step forward and speak a little sense to this stentorian finger pointing?

Step forward Kim Allen on last night’s Channel 4 news… click here.  It’s a very brief appearance and right at the end but a clear message that poverty still matters.

Kim is currently working on the ESRC funded project Celebrity and Youth project with Heather Mendick and Laura Harvey (Brunel University). To learn more about her research on class, aspiration and education go here or here.

Great work Kim!

James Duggan


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