Child Poverty in Britain’s Schools

A recent NASUWT survey of almost 2500 teachers found that schools and teachers are often having to deal directly with the consequences of poverty and poor housing for their pupils, reported the BBC (full story available here).

Three quarters of those who responded to the survey reported that they had witnessed pupils being sent to school in inappropriate clothing, without any socks or coats during winter, prompting one teacher to remark on the ‘Victorian’ conditions facing many children who live in poverty today.  One in four respondents reported bringing their own food to school to share with pupils who were coming to school hungry.

Although universal free school meals are available in infant schools, pupils coming to school hungry face significant barriers to learning as they are often less able to engage and concentrate in class.

Teachers taking part in the NASUWT survey also reported that many children would be forced to come to school when they were sick as their parents are unable to afford to take time off work.

Chris Keates, the General Secretary of NASUWT, warned of poverty and homelessness having ‘a physical and emotional toll on children’ as they arrive in school tired, hungry, and having been unable to do homework at home.

At the NUT conference, the NUT President, Philipa Harvey, also spoke of the fact schools are regularly providing breakfasts to impoverished pupils, and teachers or other members of staff often provide uniform, books, or coats to the children in their care.

Helen Robinson