As schools reach the end of term, and schools and families alike prepare for Christmas, the National Education Union has released the results of a distressing survey into child poverty.
Over half of teachers answering the survey believed there are young people in their school who will go hungry over Christmas. Nearly two-thirds said that more families are unable to afford adequate shoes or clothing this winter compared to three years ago.
In terms of the impact of poverty on the education of children, teachers identified:
· 85% behavioural issues
· 83% absences from school
· 81% lack of concentration
· 79% lateness to school
· 59% impacts on children’s health
· only 3% have observed none of these consequences
However, it's the quotes that speak more than figures ever can:
“I see children with dirty clothes. Wearing canvas shoes in wet and cold weather, not having a decent winter coat, wearing clothes that clearly aren't theirs and being bought shoes that are too big for them so they will last longer.
“Good shoes are too expensive so students are coming to school in cheap shoes that lasts a few weeks at most. I often have students asking me if I can glue their shoes back together because the sole has fallen off. Some students smell as they are in the same shirt/ uniform all week.
“Mute students going cold, making excuses, feeling ashamed.
“Period poverty causing absence. We now have a box from Red Box project and the impact was almost instant for a small number of girls.
“Our school experienced whole school attendance of 86% after heavy rain because students' shoes are damaged.
“Summer dresses, ankle socks, poor quality shoes, we have a ‘help yourself to clothes’ rail and the stuff flies off every week.
“Some students whose families have been placed in temporary accommodation are having to travel huge distances across London.
"The increase in mental health issues in families directly related to poverty is another one of the pastoral issues which are taking up vast amounts of time and resources at the same time that budget pressures are forcing both in-house and external support to be cut to the bone.
“Breakfast club snacks in my drawer, bus fares for pupils whose parents are hit by universal credit, tights for pupil in temporary accommodation.
A Government that presides over such a disgraceful situation is a failing government. Instead of a Government that blames schools and families, we need one that will take the urgent steps needed to end poverty and inequality, including funding schools so that they have the resources and staffing to meet every child's needs.