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Describe the social, economic and cultural factors that can have an impact on the outcomes and life chances of young people.
Whether it be family income, social class or racial background, factors like these often have a long lasting impact on children’s lives.
The economic factors are, in my opinion, the easiest to describe as the extremes are most apparent. GCSE results showed that children who’s parents worked tended to do better that those who’s parents didn’t. Those children who lived below the poverty line tended to do worse again. This is a clear indicator that economic wellbeing has a positive effect on the outcomes of young people.
Cultural factors can impact massively on children’s lives. The first example of this that springs to most people‘s minds is often when a group is discriminated against because of their culture. This is well documented throughout history and where it has happened, those children who have been subject to discrimination have generally achieved less at school and had fewer life chances. This is not the only example however. In certain cultures there is a tendency for boys to be offered more opportunities than girls, possibly where the girls will expected to take on the role of housewife. This is the case in certain religious sects and ethnic backgrounds.
For me, social inequality is the broadest factor that can impact upon children. The class system may still be used on occasion to differentiate and discriminate , whether by other children or authorities keen to place children in a certain category. The more common factors though are things like bullying and gender discrimination. Bullying is a traumatic experience that will often affect a child for many years, sometimes into adulthood. Children who have been bullied will often be less confident and can often experience difficulty at school. Gender discrimination can sometimes lead to bullying but is also evident elsewhere in the UK. Men still tend to earn more than women and still occupy a great many more CEO roles in this country. There are far more male Mps and a smaller percentage of women again in the cabinet.
Explain the importance and impact of poverty on the outcomes and life chances of young people.
University entrance results show that far fewer children who have grown up in poverty are entering higher education. This is a clear indicator that poverty has a negative effect on a child’s education. This can be for a number of reasons. Simply owning a car allows parents a wider choice of schools for their children to attend. Another example is whether or not the child has a workspace in order to complete homework or projects for school. Children living in poverty often live in a small house where each room is shared between several people. The more serious cases however are when children are discriminated against because of their families wealth.
More often than not the first indicator of poverty will be a child’s appearance. Those children who live in poverty have a higher tendency towards poor hygiene and scruffier clothes, as their families may not own a washing machine or in more extreme cases, have any hot water. This can lead to some professionals categorising these children as underachievers, whilst their peers may pick on them which may lead to bullying.
Children who live in poverty are seldom offered the luxury of things like holidays. This is especially true of holidays abroad. I once taught in a school in Bradford where none of the children, aged 8- 9, had left the city. This means they have never experienced other cultures or places and may be less likely to in later life. When those children become adults this means they are less likely to make a geographical move in order to help them out of poverty. Examples of this are rife in south Wales where there are no longer any jobs in towns such as Merthyr Tydfil. Unemployment figures have continued to rise whilst young adults are finishing school and remaining in their home town.
Describe the impact of children and young people’s experiences on the outcomes and life chances of young people.
Oscar Wild said that “variety is the spice of life”. Too an extent I believe this to be true. Those children who are offered many rich and varied experiences are often more open minded when it comes to trying something new. However, the way in which children’s life chances can be most keenly affected is through a traumatic experience. Children who suffer bereavement or abuse often have issues socially and may struggle to make friends. Children who are bullied by peers, teachers or family often build a negative association with that aspect of their life and will turn down chances such as further education or families of their own. The flip side of course is if excellent care is given then children will most likely flourish and seize their opportunities.
The role of the Early Years professional is to provide positive experiences for children, whilst identifying negative ones and offering support, not just to the child, but to the family as a whole. Through this the child will build in confidence and learning and will be better prepared for, and more likely to seize the opportunities that life provides.