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Poverty Commission set to look at class inequalities in education

Tuesday 17 October 2017 NUS News

NUS president Shakira Martin today announced the commissioners who will sit on the board of the NUS’ ambitious new Poverty Commission. Sophia Cannon, the well-known barrister and social justice commentator will sit on the board, alongside the likes of Wanda Wyporska, Executive Director of the Equality Trust, and Debbie Weekes from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

People from disadvantaged backgrounds are still two and a half times less likely to enter higher education and 9 per cent of them will not make it past their first year; a number which is rising year on year and is significantly higher than the figures for more privileged students.

The Poverty Commission will produce recommendations addressing deprivation relating to education, skills and training in post-16 education and examine the barriers that working class people face with regards to accessing and succeeding in education.

The recommendations will be released in February 2018.

Shakira Martin said:

“I am delighted to have such a range of expertise on the poverty commission board. Together we will bring the issues faced by working class people in education into the spotlight.

"Class inequalities are a huge problem in our society today: the UK has one of the biggest gaps between rich and poor of any country in the developed world. Our education system is a big part of that problem.

"What we can see is that disadvantaged people do not just struggle to get into education, they struggle to get on in education as well. Even after graduating, they are less likely to go into well paid jobs. A broken education funding system, rising living costs and inaccessible cultures in education are all barriers that play a part in this.

"Over the next four months we will be going out and speaking to the people affected, gathering evidence and learning from them what needs to change. The government should prepare themselves to act on the recommendations we produce: while the education system is so deeply unequal we can never achieve a fair society.”

Carmen Smith, NUS Wales Deputy President, said:

“I am very excited to get started on the Poverty Commission this week at such a pivotal time in UK society. I am of course concerned with the shockingly high levels of poverty in Wales that has remained unchanged in over a decade.

"Almost one in four people in Wales live in poverty. Poverty can mean having no money in your pocket, going through your day without food or being unable to afford heating and electricity in your home. Shakira’s work in this area is much needed and will shed much needed attention on the critical issue of poverty!”


We want to build a picture of working class students' experiences in post-16 education, whether they're impacted by the cost of living, changes in student support, or any other barrier. To do so, we're gathering evidence until December from students' unions, organisations and academics. Find out more below, or get in touch with povertycommission@nus.org.uk 

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