Family disadvantage is passed on from one generation to the next in a cycle of underachievement, it added.
The report said that factors such as how children felt about themselves and their learning also needed to be tackled. The report, which summarises the findings of eight earlier projects for the charity’s education and poverty programme, seeks to understand the well-known correlation between poverty and low educational performance. Parents who were making a choice between low income and long hours found it hard to give children good life chances, the report added.
Children were highly aware of their social position and the limitations it placed upon them.
Many had clear stereotypes of “chavs” and “posh” children, the report found. And children from different backgrounds had different attitudes to their learning and schools, which were developed at an early age. For example, those in disadvantaged schools complained that they were shouted at by teachers, whereas those in more advantaged schools did not mention this. The children concluded that those who had been able to develop reading and writing outside school were more confident and had higher self-esteem, the report said. Mr Hirsch added that if children did not feel confident about their learning they were reluctant to invest effort into it.
What did help was more activities outside school which could help children develop their confidence. Out-of-school activities should not be just an add-on, the report said, instead they were absolutely central to raising achievement. The development of extended schools, with breakfast and homework clubs will go some way to offering the opportunity for children from disadvantaged backgrounds to experience some out of school learning that better off children had access to, the report said.