Home Page

Willow Bank Junior School

Barriers to educational achievement

In order to spend the PPG effectively, it is of course imperative to have a clear understanding of the barriers faced by disadvantaged children, in particular those who are eligible for the grant.  As you would imagine, these barriers vary from child to child, and at Willow Bank we believe the most important thing is to have an understanding of the barriers facing children individually, as well as knowing the strengths and support factors which will aid their educational achievement.  This is why we believe that working closely with our families is vital in developing an understanding of how best to support children's education, and at the same time supporting the family's development as a whole.  The two biggest mistakes we need to avoid making are a)  to forget that children and families in disadvantaged situations also have strengths to offer, and b)  to assume that the needs of all children are the same.  However, there are some common themes which can be identified, and most children facing disadvantage will be having to cope with one or more of the following issues:


  • lack of resources in the home to support learning, such as books or computers or even such simple things as pens and paper;
  • lack of family aspiration in terms of educational development;
  • high family aspiration but without the skills and resources to support children's educational development;
  • social factors which make focusing on school work difficult, such as poorer housing, overcrowding and family tensions.  Of course, this last element can be found in more affluent families as well, but the stresses and anxieties which commonly go alongside poverty and low income can often exacerbate such issues;
  • lack of money to engage fully in extra-curricular activities, with the risk of social exclusion;
  • low self-esteem and low expectations in children with regards to their own abilities and potential;
  • lack of wider support structures, or at least the ability to access them, for instance by not having a car;
  • subliminal social conditioning around not being expected to have high expectations, as well as potentially explicit negative attitudes from others, both of which can lead to children feeling a lack of the same entitlement they believe others to have;
  • lack of access to enriching experiences, from being able to afford to go to the cinema to being unable to afford to go on holiday.


Significantly, children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) are over-represented among children who are eligible for PPG, a factor which the government recognises as being double disadvantaged.  This national picture is reflected here at Willow Bank Junior School, where 50% of our children eligible for PPG are also on the SEN register, compared with 10% of the school population as a whole.  It remains imperative that we have a full and proper recognition of the potential impact of double disadvantage, and that this is reflected in our strategies for developing individually-tailored support for these children.


Where barriers to learning have predated the start of a child's schooling, the risk is that they have become deeply embedded within the child's sense of self.  It is our responsibility, and indeed our privilege, to support children in overcoming such barriers, and to develop the educational skills which are fundamental to this, and which will reduce the risks of such disadvantage being perpetuated in the next generation of the child's family, and the generations that will follow.