I recently met with a family that had lived on baked beans for the previous two and half weeks, cycling 10 miles to work as they could not afford diesel. They borrowed books to read, played cards, went on walks, talked and played music.  The family are not ‘poor’, they are a low-income family stuck in a financial rut created by the benefits system.  The family, a single Mum with two teenage daughters, are unable to progress in employment for fear of exceeding the allocated hours to secure the funding to live, while the opportunities to progress in education are job related.

Such is the system that exists to ensure that all families are housed and fed but responds negatively to those who attempt to educate themselves out of benefits.  In the context of this familythe threshold for payments would appear to work against social mobility. The eldest daughter who had previously been excluded from both her school and college now destined to work in a care home, her income subsidised by benefits, forgoing the opportunity to study for a work-based level 3 qualification.  The youngest, has had to stop her music lessons that might take her to university as attendance requires transport.

Contrast this with a family, single Mum with two daughters who are living well within their means.  The Mum employed as a secretary to a medical consultant, her daughters benefitting from medical internships, the eldest planning to study nursing, the youngest with ambitions to be a doctor.

The difference between the two is that the Mum on the breadline comes from a force’s family, her Dad was a ‘squaddie’ with limited education.  The Mum engaged by the medical consultant was privately educated by her solicitor father, who was well connected in the City of London.

These very real case studies reflect the lack of opportunity and choice across our society.  This cannot be resolved by education alone.  Children and families with big problems need even bigger opportunities. 

We need mutuality, valuing all for their contributions to society, providing choice rooted in the potential talents of all children, not based on personal wealth and connections. 

Join Professor Blandford and a host of leading voices in education at our Every Child Included in Education conference on Wednesday 17th October 2017. Find out more and book your place here.