In the first of a series of blog posts, Lori Beckett introduces the upcoming book, Child Poverty in Wales: Exploring the Challenges for Schooling Future Generations.
A moment of truth has arrived. The publication of this edited volume on child poverty, specifically its causes and effects on schooling, provokes debate about Wales and its professed concerns for future generations. It reports on a school-community-university project triggered by a 2018 Welsh Government-sponsored Children First needs assessment (strengths and assets) on a housing estate in the north. This is given the pseudonym Trem y Mynydd or Mountain View, adjacent to the city and renowned for the stigma of poverty as well as community solidarity. Contributing author Caryl Lewis, who won the contract through competitive tender, initially brought together representatives from Gwynedd Council, the primary school called Ysgol Trem y Mynydd, the different multi-agencies assigned to health, childcare, social work, policing and community development, as well as academic staff from, and visitors to, the university Prifysgol Bangor. They collectively previewed draft findings, given she assembled both quantitative and qualitative data that charted the welfare challenges that confront the school head and staff along with the wider school-community. This tabulation was effectively a first ethnographic sketch of the lived experiences of child poverty and inequalities, and her report, including considered analyses, provided local and national governments with data and directions for improvements.
On the completion of Lewis’s contractual obligations, there was no further funding forthcoming from Welsh Government to address unmet needs, but the key principle of Children First provided worthy guidance: to bring together organisations to improve outcomes for children and young people based around a ‘place’. The basic idea was to develop a long-term strategic focus for Trem y Mynydd, which came to be done by the school-community supported and mentored by academic partners. Given the national government’s imprimatur, it remains to be seen to what extent this is an operational strategy for confronting and pushing back against child poverty.
Lori Beckett is now semi-retired as Visiting Professor at Bangor University, and is academic partner to a local school-community (given the pseudonym Trem y Mynydd) in Gwynedd.