• Elif True

Where do I start?

Updated: Feb 5

In July 2018, I started my Laidlaw Scholarship research into child poverty in the North-East. My research question was this: how can we understand the perpetuation of poverty through the language we use in schools? To understand this question we have to look at poverty through the use of language and how language can be used to enforce negative ideas that have an impact in children's day to day lives. The reason I was interested in this is because of my background in campaigning against poverty as a young person and witnessing the impact we have when we speak about poverty. Poverty is a word that is synonymous with 'destitution', 'deprivation' and other environments we cannot condone in our modern society. However, when we think about the 4.1 million young people in the UK who are in poverty today (DWP, 2018), these ideas of destitution and deprivation subside when we equate poverty to those living in the fifth largest economy in the world. However, the reality of people living in poverty in the UK is working families being unable to make ends meet (JRF, 2019), communities that see little development and investment and children who go to school hungry because they only receive one free meal a day.

By looking at poverty in this way, it is possible to understand the experience of a deprived young person in school can have a very different school experience to their peers. This research project wanted to investigate this by looking at discourse used in schools to understand how young people are impacted by stigma. By analysing how we talk about poverty, it is possible to understand how we perpetuate poverty stigma through negative notions around free school meals, uniforms and other school specific issues.

This was the starting point for my research and the background that made it possible for me to endeavour into this important topic.

Department for Work and Pensions, (2018). Households Below Average Income, Statistics on the number and percentage of people living in low income households for financial years 1994/95 to 2016/17, Tables 4a and 4b

Goulden, C. 2019. 'It's wrong that so many working families are trapped in poverty - it's time for action'. Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Available at:


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