As many schools across Europe are beginning their new term for the year, our member in Austria Diakonie Österreich (Diaconia Austria) reminds us that for many young people, the beginning of the school year will not be a smooth one.

Deputy Director of Diakonie Österreich and Expert in Social Policy Martin Schenk highlights that poor starting conditions for young children at the start of term don’t just affect grades. The longer and the earlier children are exposed to situations of poverty, the more impact it will have on their development and their futures. Low-income families are struggling to meet the high costs that come with starting or going back to school, including school supplies, stationary, sports kit, books, and school trips which can reach as high as 300 Euros.

Diakonie Österreich are therefore calling for increased support to schools situated in disadvantaged areas or neighborhoods, so that students get the same chances as their classmates in more affluent areas. As a way to reach those in need, our member in Austria is suggesting the implementation of a ‘social index’, as has previously been seen in places such as The Netherlands, Zurich, Hamburg and also Canada. Such an index would take into account the education, work and income of parents, and would allocate resources to schools accordingly to make schools in disadvantaged areas more attractive.

The support to schools should be twofold however, recognizing the fact that more money does not necessarily mean automatic improvement, and that schools in disadvantaged areas need ongoing support no how to make the best use of their resources for the benefit of all pupils now and in the future.

For more information on Diakonie Osterreich’s proposals to help improve the chances of all school children, please visit their website.