POVERTY of aspiration is a myth – and allows schools to use it to dodge responsibility for aiding deprived pupils, research has found.

Sociologist Dr Morag Treanor said her study rubbishes the idea that low-income parents lack ambition for their children, and says the notion that they do lets educators shrug off the need to help disadvantaged youngsters fulfil their potential.

Analysing 3500 responses from the Growing Up in Scotland study, which tracks young people from birth to their teenage years, Treanor found income does not limit aspiration.

However, the worst-off are less likely to know what is possible for their children and how to help them achieve it.

And mothers and fathers affected by any kind of financial hardship were almost twice as likely to think that they could do nothing to boost their child’s grades.

Those affected believed they were “unable” to assist because their knowledge and experience was “inadequate”.

Treanor said: “Those of us with no experience of sailing in the Mediterranean do not aspire to yacht ownership on the Côte d’Azur.

“That does not make us deficient in aspiration. Rather, we aspire to what we have experience of, what we know we can influence, and what we believe we can achieve.

“While the poverty of aspiration myth is allowed to perpetuate and even gain in momentum, it will continue to distract from the ways in which children living in poverty are failed by the education system.”

Treanor’s study, released yesterday, found the aspirations held by parents for their children differed according to the family’s experience of want.

Those with experience of living in any type of need were 1.6 times more likely to want their sons and daughters to embark on training courses or undertake apprenticeships.

They were also half as likely as parents without experience of financial hardship to aim for their children to stay at school beyond the age of 16.

Meanwhile, for every type of poverty, parents were between 1.4 and 1.8 times less likely to believe that they can have a positive influence on their child’s attainment in the classroom.

However, the study says that teachers “cite low aspirations on the part of parents for children’s poorer educational attainment” and that this “has an effect on how teachers and school staff engage with children and parents living in poverty”.

Calling for policy-makers to help worse-off families overcome the attainment gap and learn about the opportunities available, including routes into university, Treanor said: “Each of us is a creation of our past and present experiences as well as our acquired skills, knowledge and education.”