EDUCATION FOR TWO NATIONS – RICH AND POORCategory: Education
An unskilled worker’s child has a six times higher chance of being a poor reader than a child of a professional worker, and a fifteen times higher chance of being a non-reader.
Seven-year-olds from large families are on average 12 months behind seven-year-olds from small families in their reading.
These are some of the harsh facts showing how bad social conditions retard educational progress which, according to Sir Alec Clegg, Education Officer for the West Riding of Yorkshire, will be revealed in a report now being prepared on a continuing survey of 17,000 British children.
Children of unskilled workers are 17 months behind children from the top professional groups, and children whose parents leave school as soon as they can are six months behind those whose parents stayed on says Sir Alec.
Sir Alec was making his presidential address at the opening in Leeds of the North of England Education Conference, the theme of which is “Disadvantage”.
He said that the second report of the National Child Development Study, entitled “From Birth to Seven,” would show that nearly 11 per cent of the children in the survey were living in overcrowded conditions and 14 per cent living in households of more than five children.
Sir Alec said 1 per cent of seven-year-olds born to professional parents lived in overcrowded houses, but 37 per cent of children of unskilled workers did so. Overcrowding was associated with two or three months retardation in reading at the age of seven.
Children who lived in homes without basic amenities — and these in the main are in the lower social groups — were on average eight months behind in their reading.
In the lower occupational groups there were proportionately more children with squints, speech defects, and poor dental health.
Sir Alec criticized the educational districts to be set up in the proposed six new metropolitan counties under the local government reorganization Bill/ They wrould be too small and poor to provide the education service needed, he said.
“We are, I suspect, about to create within the education service Disraeli’s two nations — the rich and the poor,” said Sir Alec.
(Morning Star, January 1972)