Thatcherite legacy must be challenged to tackle child poverty

Created on: 19 Apr 2013 | Last modified: 04 Apr 2023

The General Secretary of the EIS has today (Saturday) called on all of Scotland’s political parties to challenge the social injustices of the Thatcherite legacy and their impact on child poverty in Scotland. 

Speaking at an EIS Education Conference in Glasgow, which explored the impact of poverty on education, General Secretary Larry Flanagan highlighted how the political sins of the 1980s are still having a profound and damaging impact for many children and young people across Scotland.

Noting the recent debate about the legacy of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Mr Flanagan said:

"There has been much debate over the past week about the Thatcherite legacy, and even talk that this somehow created a new political consensus across the UK." 

"This is certainly not a widely held view within the Scottish education community, where we still see the damaging impact of the divisive and damaging policies of that era every day in our schools, colleges and universities." 

"It was an era that destroyed many communities in Scotland, and sent many families into an impossible to escape spiral of unemployment, underemployment, poverty and social deprivation."

"Today, right across the country and in all sectors of education, we continue to witness the devastating long-term impact this has had for many young people.”

Poverty continues to be the main barrier to young people maximising their educational potential and, with almost one in five children in Scotland living in poverty, it is shameful and an indictment of all political parties that they have not successfully tackled this growing social divide."

"A large number of young people living in Scotland today are continuing to pay a heavy price for the divisive policies of the 1980s – for them the true legacies of that period are poverty, low household income, poor housing, hunger, social exclusion, the dangers of substance abuse, lack of employment prospects and difficulty in accessing educational opportunities.”

Improving the educational chances for young people who are disadvantaged must be the top priority for all of Scotland’s political parties and for the Scottish Parliament."

"While we have, thankfully, escaped the worst excesses of the UK Government’s education policy and its attacks on any remaining notion of equality of education for all, we must continue to push for a fair comprehensive education system that can provide all young people, no matter what their personal circumstances, with every opportunity to maximise their educational potential.”

We must challenge the political decisions that have created a situation where ten times as many children from deprived areas leave school without qualifications compared to children from the most affluent areas." 

"This is an issue that schools themselves, often under-resourced and facing daily challenges just to provide sufficient levels of resources and staffing to deliver teaching and learning, cannot overcome in isolation."

"It is a problem that society as a whole, and our political leaders in particular, must recommit to address.”

"We are fortunate in one respect in that the Scottish Parliament continues to reflect the Scottish view of education – as a vital commodity that is the property of all the people of Scotland, and which must provide fair and equal opportunities for all." 

"The ongoing commitment in Scotland to equal and fair comprehensive education for all is something that we should continue to be proud of, even as we work to enhance the opportunities that it can offer for young people." 

"Important steps have already been taken – such as the continued expansion of free nursery education for all 3 and 4 year olds and many 2 year olds in areas of deprivation, together with the lowering of class sizes in the vital early years of learning – but this is just the beginning not the end of what we must achieve." 

"To truly tackle the blight of poverty across Scotland and improve the life chances of all our young people, we must continue to invest in our schools, colleges and universities and ensure that the potential ability to learn is always the main factor driving the educational path of each individual.”