Poverty affects children's school performance: report

Primary school classroom
Primary school classroom Photo: racorn/DepositPhotos

Nearly two-thirds of primary school teachers in the Netherlands have pupils in the classroom who live in poverty. They notice that these children have more problems with their school performance than their peers with no money problems at home, according to a survey among 700 primary school teachers by DUO. 20 percent of teachers stopped group discussions about weekend or holiday activities, because it is "too painful" for the pupils who could not do anything, AD reports.

On average, two children per classroom in the Netherlands live in poverty. Their parents' income is just above the welfare level. The teachers report noticing poor pupils often wearing the same clothes, that they come to school with empty lunchboxes, and hear in group discussions that they did nothing with their parents over a weekend or holiday. 

More than half of teachers see that poverty influences pupils' learning performance. "We really have families who live in a one-room apartment with nine people. These families are not busy practicing multiplication tables or reading. They are busy surviving," one teacher said, according to AD. Schools offer extra activities free of charge, like after-school music lessons, to prevent these children falling behind. But it is not always enough. 

According to Children's Ombudsman Margrite Kalverboer, it is very important that children feel safe at school and notice that the teacher sees them. "Poverty has much more influence than just the question of what things are in the house and whether there is food to eat. Children say it is difficult to concentrate at school because they have a lot of stress at home," Kalverboer said. These worries come with them to school. "Due to the scarcity and pressure at home, the normal things in a child's life fade into the background. They quickly feel guilty, feel sorry for their parents."