Child poverty on rise in Borders, figures reveal

Donna Manson.
Donna Manson.

Scottish Borders Council is to ask for extra funding in a bid to close the attainment gap in its schools after new figures revealed a rise in the level of children living in poverty.

Latest statistics show that one in four children in the Borders are now living with what is described as material deprivation.

Donna Manson, the authority’s service director for children and young people, said that 24% of Borders children come from families of limited resources, and that is 4% higher than the national average.

“I am absolutely infuriated when I receive documents saying that our young people are living in an area of affluence,” Ms Manson said.

“That kind of analysis does not truly reflect what it is like for the people living in the Borders today. In real terms, we have many families living in poverty.”

A report presented to the council’s executive on Tuesday showed that pupils in the region’s most deprived areas, including Burnfoot and Wellogate in Hawick and Langlee achieved less well in both numeracy and literacy than those from the least deprived.

Speaking at the meeting, Hawick and Denholm councillor Stuart Marshall said that the figures for Burnfoot were shocking.

“To see this part of my ward so far up the list is a great concern to me,” he said. “This latest round of figures show that our efforts must be redoubled.”

Ms Manson admitted that closing the gap would be a significant challenge but said that good work, although in its infancy, was taking place.

She added: “What we have to do now is work together to understand and to poverty-proof our schools.”

Borders schools were allocated £1.82m of pupil equity funding, targeted at closing the poverty related attainment gap, in April last year. Two attainment officers were subsequently appointed to support schools with their plans for its use.

“We’re looking to build solutions together, and I think we have got some really exciting work developing,” Ms Manson added.

The executive agreed that the council would approach ministers and senior officers in the Scottish Government to discuss the possibility of innovation funding in recognition of increasing child poverty levels in the region.