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Durham University

Research & business

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The kinds of poverty in schools and their impact on student progress

A research project of the School of Education.


This proposal to look at several different kinds of relative poverty faced by young people in schools could have important implications for theory and practice, and without gathering any new data. In England, eligibility for free school meals (FSM) is a widely used policy indicator for a pupil known to be from a financially disadvantaged background (Hobbs and Vignoles 2010). FSM is routinely treated as context for judging both individual- and school–level attainment, as an indicator of school composition, and as the basis for the pupil premium (PP) funding policy. Knowledge of the quality, reach and limitations of FSM as an indicator is therefore fundamental to accurate decision-making in important areas. FSM-eligibility is not a constant characteristic of an individual pupil, in the same way that sex or ethnicity usually are, but linked to the economy, and family circumstances, meaning that pupils might move in and out of FSM-eligibility over their school careers (Gorard 2014). It is a threshold characteristic, so there will be important variation within FSM-eligibility. This project takes that variation seriously.


The project is funded by the following grant.

  • The Kinds Of Poverty In Schools And Their Impact On Student Progress (£132288.00 from ESRC)


From the School of Education