Poverty of experience

 

24879975_10101689810967684_1520648942000110531_oIt was a lovely day last Sunday in our part of the world.  One of those crisp winter days when the sun is shining and if you wrap up warm it feels good to be outside. A lovely day in fact to visit one of the beautiful historic buildings we are lucky to have access to.  Even better when we realised there was a Christmas market going on. Lots of people had had the same idea so we queued for a while to pay the entrance fee. However when we eventually came to pay, we were shocked by how expensive it was to buy a ticket. We ‘ummed and ahhed’ about whether to pay up or go home and decided on the former.  We were certainly not disappointed and had a lovely day but it did make us think about how accessing these kind of historical properties might not be open to everyone.

Two days later the Social Mobility Commission published its State of the Nation report which recognises geographical differences in outcomes for young children. One thing it highlighted was the fact that ‘Good outcomes…may be due …to the breadth of opportunities on offer in London (e.g…museums, libraries, art galleries etc.)’ (2017, p. 25).  Other research has evidenced how museums, for example, can offer children ‘unique opportunities to explore various concepts of mathematics, art and social science’ (Andre et al., 2016, p. 46). But to be able to access these opportunities children have got to have an adult who can afford to buy them an entrance ticket.

When we think of poverty, we often think of basic needs being met but how sad that many children live their day to day lives with a  ‘poverty of experience’. This means that they can seldom experience the joy of walking in the grand grounds of a stately home, marvelling at furnishings from the past or simply drinking in the atmosphere of a building that has seen many stories unfold.  Various writers have used the term ‘funds of knowledge’ to describe the learning children bring to the educational setting with them.  For example Hedges et al. (2011) describe how ‘family affordances such as dancing classes, access to swimming pools, and family holidays and outings created sources of funds of knowledge’ (p. 196). Yet if families cannot stretch to these ‘affordances’ then the knowledge bank accounts of these children are seriously depleted.

Paula Stone discussed in a previous post how those working with young children should both value their class-informed choices and widen their experiences. This widening of experience can happen both through what is taught but also what is available to children as extra curricula activities; there is evidence to suggest that what is offered ‘outside’ the curriculum can impact positively on young children’s attainment. Though of course the cost of these extra-curricular activities, and whether parents can afford to fund them, adds another layer of complexity.  Austerity measures cuts to school funding will mean schools will now have less in their budgets to cover the basics never mind support children who cannot financially access the ‘extras’.  Early years settings, who could offer enriching experiences to younger children, have their own funding difficulties to deal with.

We would love to hear about people who have been able to creatively tackle this issue in practice.  Let us know your thoughts below…..

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