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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 December 2007, 13:54 GMT
Beating the odds - a mum's tale
Parents with son
Families must help and support their children to defy statistics

Mother Sarah from the west of England is sceptical about claims that if you are bright but poor you will not achieve your full potential at school.

She has a disabled partner and a 15-year-old son who is now studying for GCSEs at a local grammar school after passing his 11-plus exam.

Their family live on benefits due to her partner's disability.

But this did not stop Sarah from supporting and encouraging her son throughout his education.

She told her story to the BBC News website.

My family has lived on benefits all my son's life and live well below the poverty line.

I am passionate about my son and that all circumstances should be considered for all children - and parents' status should not influence their chances in life.

I bought games and books to encourage my son to read when he was younger and always made a special time for him during the day to help him to develop as I did with his big sister when she was younger; they both seemed to benefit from this immensely.

The system is not there to be beaten but I strongly believe that if you wish to be a parent you should take full responsibility for their total welfare and not rely on the state to educate your children
Sarah, mother

I have always put my son first and have had family help to ensure that he had all types of toys and games to enable him to develop.

Personally I did go without to ensure that he had a variety of things to aid him in learning which were always fun and when he was very young he considered it fun.

It was more important to me to see him enjoy learning.

At first school my son was encouraged by his teacher and in the third year of school especially in maths which he excels at, they would give him more difficult work to encourage him.

But he was let down in middle school where he was in a mixed ability school where he was bullied and that was very difficult as the school would not address the obvious abilities of him and two others that were in his class.

He was - along with the two other children - put into small groups to work with the less able and then he did nothing because they could not understand him to follow his ideas and I believe this was very damaging to him although he still tried his best when he was allowed to work on his own.

Parents' role

My son had to sit an entrance exam three years ago to get to the local grammar school and passed with flying colours to get his place.

I was told from very early on at his middle school that he would and should go to the grammar school because of his intelligence and this made me proud that the effort he has made at school put him in this position now.

He was bullied because he was clever and this made his life miserable until he attended the local grammar school and is with others as intelligent as him so now he is doing his exams next year and looking to joining sixth form at the school to do his A-levels next September.

Whenever he was sent homework home and needed help he was always given it and I was always interested in what he was learning and when he was at junior school I did actually help voluntarily at his school and saw the differences for myself about those children that were encouraged and those that weren't. Money wasn't the issue - it was whether parents could be bothered.

The middle school failed him as they allowed bullying to occur to him and he felt he shouldn't try anymore which really disappointed us and the two other parents and we were greatly relieved when they left the middle school to go to the senior school.

I attend meetings for my son when required and feel that he knows he can come and talk to us about problems in school or anything that worries him especially coming up to his exams and working out what he wants to do in the future as it is a scary world out there when you are young and school ends quite abruptly and that you have to start making grown up decisions.

I am delighted to say that he is staying on at his school to do A-levels but then I hope that after that he will be in a position to go the university route too although this worries me due to financing.

Although it is still two years away we are aware it costs a lot but he shouldn't lose out to his father's disability.

The system is not there to be beaten but I strongly believe that if you wish to be a parent you should take full responsibility for their total welfare and not rely on the state to educate your children.

Learning is always best taught by parents at an early age and then learning at school can be an extension of a life experience we all have to do.

Lower income families aren't third class citizens and by and large try desperately to help their children, whereas richer families will pay for extra tuition by others and will buy their children all modern technology but money doesn't mould intelligence, love and care and encouragement for their development.

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13 Dec 07 |  Education
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