Our Poverty Proofing the School Day initiative looks at school from the perspective of the poorest student.  Here are some top tips to help you start Poverty Proofing your school (as seen on I News):

Changing how free school meals are delivered - think about how you're identifying those children who receive Free School Meals - do they have FSM next to their name in the register?  Are they told to stand in a different line?  Do they receive a brown/white paper bag with their lunch in on school trips?  One school found a way to remedy children being singled out on trips by going to the local charity shop and getting a random selection of lunch boxes so students who get Free School Meals get theirs in a lunch box too.  This means when they are walking along with their friends, everyone has a lunch box.

Consider how uniforms are bought - using school 'branding' on all aspects of uniform can be a huge expense for parents.  Some schools have gone to the local supermarket and checked it is selling jumpers in the school colour.  In some cases they don’t, so either they have to request that they will, or re-consider the colour of their jumper.  In some schools, the 'wrong' uniform can see students punished.  We challenge that and say if someone doesn’t have the right uniform, the first reaction needs to be: ‘is everything ok? Is there anything we can help with?’ It should be a trigger point for schools, rather than a point of punishment.

Rethinking the register - in some schools the register is projected on to a wall with either a dot, FSM or Free written next to the free school meal students.  Students told us this is how they knew who was on free school meals - just get rid of this column.

Non-uniform days - think about how many you're having and at what times of the year.  Some schools have decided not to have non-uniform days and have things like 'odd-socks day' or 'wear something green day' instead.  Non-uniform are also often for charity which involves asking for a small donation, which some parents may not be able to give their children.  Instead of a teacher going round table by table asking each student for it, how about a bucket so when children walk in they can drop their pound in and then no-one knows if a student didn’t have a donation to drop in.

Addressing present-buying for teachers - while present giving to teachers is not expected by schools, it's not always actively discouraged.  To combat this some schools are discouraging presents, and are suggesting donations for a local food bank, or a card or handwritten note instead.

Making after-school clubs more accessible - some students of schools we had been too weren't accessing after schools clubs because you could wear what you liked, with better off students wearing the latest football kit or designer clothes.  To make these more accessible, some schools have changed the policy to be school uniform or PE kit only, taking away identifying anyone who doesn't have the latest designer trends.

Asking important questions about school trips - some of the big questions about school trips should always be why is that trip happening, and how is it improving the value of the education?  Things to consider when planning a school trip are:

  • notice - make sure you give parents plenty of notice.  Most people get paid or receive universal credit on a monthly basis, so would need at least a month to budget for the trip.
  • subsidies - are there any subsidies on offer for large trips?  Parents can often be unaware that they can access these subsidies.
  • understanding the real cost - it's not always the cost of the trip that can be the issue.  The cost of providing items for that child to go on the school trip can really add up too.  We always work with schools to understand what the real cost of the school trip is.

How resources for food tech are delivered - at some schools we've been to, students who can't bring in ingredients for food teach don't get to take part in the lesson.  We've also been in schools where the food has been provided but at the end of the lesson if it hasn't been paid for, the work gets put in the bin.  We would always encourage schools to look at alternatives such as asking for the money for ingredients and having the school provide them, then if a parent doesn't pay, the school can look into providing it instead for that student.  One school we've worked with has a process in place where everybody puts their food in the fridge at the beginning of the day with their name on, and for pupil premium students, the school provides the food, but nobody is identified as all the food is in the fridge with names on.

Looking after spare PE kits - if you're a student with only one PE kit but your top has a hole in it, you don't want to have to wear the PE kit that has been stuffed in the back of the PE office.  It becomes a barrier to taking part.  In some schools, we've seen spare PE kits that are immaculate and that's what we would encourage.  Present your spare PE kits as decent PE kits and wash them after each use.

You can find out more about our Poverty Proofing the School Day Project by visiting their website.