Interrogating the relationship between poverty, attainment and mental health and wellbeing: the importance of social networks and support - a Scottish case study

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The poverty-related attainment gap is an internationally recognised problem. It resides within a culture of performativity in which international comparators, underpinned by neo-liberal ideology, drive national policy. This conceptual paper interrogates the relationship between poverty, attainment and children’s mental health and wellbeing to inform public policy and practice in Scotland and beyond. A key theme identified from the analysis of the literature is the nature, quality and strength of social and support networks around schools, families and children. This is contextualised within a discussion of the nature of childhood poverty and mental health in children in Scotland and the response of the Scottish Government. A focus on educational policy and schools alone will not in itself address the poverty-related attainment gap. What is required is a holistic focus on public policy, informed by interdisciplinary research, and a focus on building a strong infrastructure of support around schools, families and communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-370
Number of pages26
JournalCambridge Journal of Education
Issue number3
Early online date10 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2020


  • poverty
  • attainment
  • mental health and wellbeing
  • social support
  • social networks

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