Pupils ‘come to school hungry’, says teacher union
Increasing numbers of pupils are coming to school hungry, anxious and unable to concentrate because of family financial pressures, a teachers’ union has said.
The NASUWT union said growing numbers of teachers and schools were providing food, equipment and clothes for pupils.
Others were offering financial advice and referring struggling families to external support services.
The government said it was committed to working to eliminate child poverty and improving life chances for children.
More than 3,250 teachers responded to the NASUWT survey about their experiences over the past year.
The survey found:
- Almost three-quarters of the teachers had seen pupils coming to school hungry
- Over a quarter had given food to hungry pupils
- Most said their school had given food to hungry pupils
- Most had seen pupils unable to afford uniform
- 15% had given pupils clothing
- 59% said their school had given pupils clothing
- Almost two-thirds had lent or given pupils school equipment
- Most said their school had lent or given pupils school equipment
- Over a third had seen pupils leave school mid-term because they had lost their homes
- Over a third were aware of pupils living in temporary accommodation
- 41% had given advice to families on issues related to financial pressures
- Most said financial pressures meant rising levels of anxiety among pupils
- Nearly three-quarters reported pupils being absent from school
- Nearly two-thirds said pupils had exhibited behaviour problems
“Many are parents working multiple low-pay jobs to make ends meet and then being unhappy at not being able to give the support of being there for their children.
“More children telling me that there is no-one at home morning or evening or both (due to work shifts), and I have had to give out and purchase resources like pens et cetera for more students who, in tears, are admitting that they just have nothing to get these basics.”
“Some families have been so poor, staff have donated food and toiletries to help them out.
“One teacher washes one child’s uniform.”
“We have a number of children whose families have become homeless or at risk of losing their homes.
“Due to the huge cost of housing in our area, it means that the catchment area has become unaffordable for a number of medium- and low-income families.
“This means they are forced out of the immediate area, so children have to travel further.”
“The community I work in is economically deprived, so many students have uniform that is way past its best.
“Most days, I have a sewing needle or darning needle in my hand mending students’ clothes so they look a bit better and feel a bit better about themselves.
“I even have a supply of superglue in my desk drawer to mend shoes as well.”
NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “It is clear that teachers and schools are being left to pick up the pieces of callous fiscal and social policies.
“Poverty is a key inhibitor to educational progression, and schools simply cannot be expected to tackle these issues alone.
“As the survey shows, poverty and homelessness take an enormous physical and emotional toll on children.
“They often cannot concentrate when they are in school because they are tired, hungry and anxious.
“Children living in poverty are more likely to suffer from low confidence and behavioural issues.”
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “This government is committed to working to eliminate child poverty and improving life chances for children.
“Thanks to our reforms, there are more people in work than ever before and the number of children growing up in workless families is at a record low – down by 480,000 since 2010.
“We also want to ensure more children have a nutritious breakfast as a healthy start to their school day, which is why, as part of the Budget, we announced £10m funding a year to expand breakfast clubs in up to 1,600 schools, starting from September 2017.
“All infant pupils can also now get free school meals – meaning 1.3 million more children get a nutritious free meal at lunchtime, saving families hundreds of pounds.”