Gransnet forums


children's understanding of poverty

(18 Posts)
rojon Mon 06-Jan-14 20:26:59

I got into a discussion about food banks with DGS age 7. During the conversation I said that there were probably some children at his school whose parents were so poor that they had to use food banks. He was quite adamant that there were no poor children in his school.
This led me to think over my childhood perceptions of poverty. I always thought of my family as not actually being poor but on the other hand not being well off enough for me to ask to go on school trips abroad. My father was always in work, we had a holiday away each summer and my sister and I went to a prep school until age eleven yet I knew we weren't rich.
Isn't it strange to look back on our childhood perceptions?

glassortwo Mon 06-Jan-14 20:38:45

rojon there are children in my DGC school whose parents will most certainly need the help of food banks but I would be astounded if the other children were aware of the situation (its a primary school) and thank goodness that the stigma that I endured having free school meals no longer exists, at least not in DGC school.
The Head is forever pushing the fact that there is an amount of extra money that comes into the school for every child receiving school meals even if only for 1 week, and it makes such a difference to the school budget and that the Parents dont feel it is something to ashamed of.

rosesarered Mon 06-Jan-14 23:11:22

There is real poverty, and the perception of poverty.Children are not clued up about this anyway. I never realised that we were very poor growing up, we had anough to eat [just] the house was kept clean, but we lived as a family very hand to mouth. No holidays, just little picnics and trips to cinema [it was cheap then.]We had free school meals [squirm!]free shoes too.Walked everywhere.Assumed most people lived like that at the time.
My DGS hasn't a clue about money.

grannyactivist Mon 06-Jan-14 23:26:17

When I was a child I was in no doubt that my family was very poor. Those of us who had free school meals had to line up at the end of the 'dinner queue' and were only served after all the paying pupils had been fed, we were often teased mercilessly by pupils who walked past us in the queue. In those days I even got free school meals during the long summer holidays; one school canteen was always open to feed the poor and I and my siblings had to travel on two buses to get there, I think we were given bus tokens to pay the fare.
Nowadays I think poorer parents are able to shield their children much better from the knowledge of poverty, but the downside of this is that poorer children have the same expectations for material things as their more well off counterparts.

TriciaF Tue 07-Jan-14 10:08:02

One of our grandsons, who is a very bright 10 yr old, asked me why we didn't come over to stay with them in Kuwait. I told him we can't afford it. So he thought for a while and said "you could sell the hen's eggs and save it for the airfare."
Worked out I could get about £4 per week for the eggs, while one air fare ?£500, so how many weeks, years?
I think he was beginning to get the idea that we're poorer than his family.

janerowena Tue 07-Jan-14 13:44:53

My father was a dreadful gambler, but in business, not at the gaming tables. We would be rich one moment and poor the next. It was very confusing. Private school one week, free dinners at the local primary the next. Beautiful new clothes one year, sandals tied on with string when the buckle broke the next. My mother was always very good at making ends meet, luckily, but I will never forget the horrors of her home-made knitted, crocheted, shirred and towelling swimsuits for our visits to local swimming pools in years when we hadn't money for holidays. I found her creations far more humiliating than having free meals - although I do remember our school trialling the 'free dinner pupils go last and sit apart' scheme, and being very upset about that. The Headmaster came into lunch and saw the system and it upset him too, I remember him having a row with the dinner lady behind me. The following week we were back with our friends.

As a result of all the to-ing and fro-ing, I never felt that I belonged anywhere. Because of all the changes my mother said that once we were at secondary school, that was where we would stay. So I ended up in a grammar school, the two next in age ended up at a very ladylike private school and the youngest at the local comprehensive. Just weird now I think of it, but we didn't question anything.

GillT57 Tue 07-Jan-14 14:47:17

Two of my Mother's friends were brought up in Glasgow during the 1930s. One lady was telling of how poor they were, the treat of broken biscuits from Woolworth's, and how her brother had rickets. The other lady was agreeing how awful it had been, and said that her parents were so poor they couldnt afford to heat the front room while she had her piano lesson. Differing views and perceptions !!

Grannyknot Tue 07-Jan-14 15:04:33

My best is when I recently told my adult daughter some tale of how poor we were and she silenced me with "Oh, well, most people were poor back then so it didn't matter" shock. Made me think again how the rich-poor divide has got bigger and how the "rich middle-class" has grown.

Although we had very little money when I was growing up, I can't say I really noticed it because my mother always managed to feed and clothe us, and my school uniform for example was often in better nick than some of the other kids in my class. Why? Washed, neatly darned, starched and ironed to perfection! Also my gran made all our clothes and she was the local seamstress, I was better dressed than many of my peers in terms of style and quality. She even crocheted a 60s mini dress in ecru for me when I was a teenager. How I wish I had kept that dress.

The other thing she did was take on us holidays having paid for them on the "lay-bye" system. Nothing spectacular (I didn't set foot in a hotel until I was well in my 20s) but they were wonderful holidays by the sea.

Years after I left school I caught up with a girl who had been in my class and I expressed that we were poor, and she said "I never would have known".

gillybob Wed 08-Jan-14 09:58:37

My grandchildren attend primary school in the middle of a very large council estate where there are a lot of poor (even very poor) families. I have seen with my own eyes children going to and leaving school without a warm coat or wearing little short socks in the freezing cold weather. I get very upset about this and wonder what we can do to help. I recently made a suggestion (turned down) that there should be a way of donating pieces of school uniform/coats/ shoes etc that are still in very good condition but no longer fit and anyone should be able to go along and choose something for their child. Perhaps even making a tiny donation to school funds. I was told that this was not appropriate as it would mean parents would feel like beggars or scroungers ????????? I would never directly approach someone in the playground and say "here would you like this coat for little Johnny" so I couldn't see the problem with my idea. Likewise I worry about what some children get to eat when they are not in school and what we as a society can do about this. Foodbanks in 2014 ? who would have thought it? Shameful isn't it?

JessM Wed 08-Jan-14 10:15:45

Who turned it down *gillybob???
Even quite "posh" schools have second hand uniform shops!!

I know in the school I was involved in we sometimes bought shoes out of school fund when kids came to school with holes in footwear.

KatyK Wed 08-Jan-14 10:32:57

Yes - My DGD goes to a rather 'posh' school and I'm sure they have a second hand uniform 'system'. My DD works in a school in a reasonably nice area and has been appalled at some of the things she sees. One mother has been known to bring her small child in and say to the staff 'can you find something for his breakfast, I haven't got anything to give him' although rumour has it that she is a drug addict. GillT57 you have it in a nutshell. My upbringing was very poor. My mother had 7 children, an alcoholic, violent husband who rarely worked. I can remember cutting up cornflake boxes to make insoles for my shoes to try to cover the holes when it rained, hair alive with lice etc. In later years I worked with someone who lived not far from me as a child and we were discussing our upbringing. she said 'yes I know what you mean, sometimes my dad struggled to pay the telephone bill'. They had a telephone! She was probably one of the little girls with the plaits and pretty dresses that I always wanted to be. envy It's all relative. When my DGD was small she said 'nan we are poor, we can't afford to go abroad on holiday'. I said no you are not really poor, you have a nice home, 2 cars and lovely clothes. She saw it differently and why wouldn't she?

Nelliemoser Wed 08-Jan-14 11:17:53

Gillybob that is a dreadful attitude for a school to have.

The staff as professionals have a legally have a duty to "promote the welfare" of the children in their care. They should talk to parents about this lack of warm clothing as it's a child neglect issue. By ignoring this issue the school are failing in their duty to advise and assist parents to keep their children safe and well.

They ought to be told that but that might not be easy to do.

I think the schools excuse shows a deep ignorance of real "political correctness" about tackling social stigma etc.

The same clumsy ignorance I heard from a nursery school worker about having to sing Baa Baa "blue" sheep as one was not supposed to use the word black!


glassortwo Wed 08-Jan-14 11:27:30

gilly my DGC school have a stall at every event the PTFA hold with second hand uniform each item is usually 5 or 10p and usually the items all go.
Your DGC school certainly have a strange aproach from what you have said on here and other threads.

Riverwalk Wed 08-Jan-14 11:27:44

Gillybob is this the same school that expects parents to fork out £10 for a trip to the synagogue?

It is heartbreaking to see young children inadequately dressed in this cold weather and to know that they are also going without food.

I know some people are reluctant to accept 'charity' but there must be many parents in the school who would appreciate warm clothing for their kids at a nominal cost.

Is there a nearby charity shop that you could donate the clothes to?

Giving it further thought: it's not so easy to pass things on to the less fortunate, often the parents are lacking in basic parenting skills/budgeting, etc and maybe these same parents wouldn't bother to seek out available cheap clothing, I don't know. It's all so bloody sad.

gillybob Wed 08-Jan-14 12:00:34

I approached the school directly through the office who said that they would speak to the head and get back to me. I was told that the head did not "like the idea" of the school being turned into a "charity shop" and that if I had any pieces of uniform that we no longer had use for we should approach an individual class teacher who would "put it into their bag of spares incase a child in his or her class has an accident". I have already done this many times but this is missing the point. I agree with your point about political correctness Neilliemoser and would like to add that my grandson actually sings "baa baa white sheep, have you any spots? Yes sir, yes sir, lots and lots". Crazy.

gillybob Wed 08-Jan-14 12:05:21

Exactly the same school Riverwalk !

Yes they do have a "strange approach" Glass. The head teacher is a bully towards children, parents and teachers alike. She is a control freak who, it seems is not open to any ideas that are not her own!

glammanana Wed 08-Jan-14 14:49:57

We have a system here on The Wirral where twice a year a couple of Ladies put a notice in the local free paper for uniforms which have been outgrown,they have a central collection point and spend a couple of weeks checking them for any repairs that need doing and then size them all are offered free to parents and they range from 5yrs -16yrs the next time they advertise I know my DD will be looking for a blazer for DGD and she will put her smaller one in for recycling easy peasy !! all she will then have to do is buy her a couple of new blouses for the next year.

JessM Wed 08-Jan-14 18:52:46

gillybob if you are sufficiently annoyed then write to the Chair of Governors, as governors may have a different view. It is always possible the people in the office thought the idea would make more work for them...
That is a very kind idea glammanana. Schools do vary in how sensitive they are to this issue. I was always for the lowest budget option until the pupils (secondary) rose up in revolt and said they wanted blazers and ties like the other schools! In my GD's last primary school (in Australia) they had a summer frock that was non standard and cost about £30 each. Even my DIL who is hyper sensitive about what her children wear, bought a second hand one on one occasion.
Getting back to poverty last time I visited GD remarked that her mummy had said they were poor and GD laughed about it - thought it ridiculous. Poverty is these days so much a matter of perception.
I never felt that we were poor, but we were pretty hard up - my mother was supporting her own mother, us two kids and two teenaged sisters on a teacher's salary. My DH's family were similarly hard up and he obviously felt poor - compared to the other kids in the grammar school I think. But somehow it is who the child compares themself to.
DH nephew at aged 12 could not understand what I meant when I said he was "rich" - despite the several 5* holidays every year and the swimming pool in the garden etc. he was comparing himself to even more wealthy classmates that owned fields, horses, quad bikes etc.. One of them had a birthday party in which the boys were driving an adult car on a race track - cost about £80 per child!!!!