Poverty rife in schools

Poverty rife in schools as pupils ‘fill pockets with school food’

It’s a sad reality that many families in the UK are living in poverty. So much so, that head teachers are witnessing malnourished school children with grey skin ‘filling their pockets’ with food from the canteen.

Head teachers from various regions in England and Wales recently attended the National Education Union (NEU) conference in Brighton. Whilst there, they spoke to highlight the challenges facing an increasing number of school children growing up in poverty, and how their situation impacts their education.

Many heads talked of the differences in appearance of their pupils, with one claiming: “My children have grey skin, poor teeth, poor hair; they are thinner.”

The government said measures were in place to deal with poverty in the UK, explains the BBC.

Head teacher Lynn, who works at a school in a former industrial town in Cumbria, acknowledged that hunger was especially apparent after the weekend. She said: “Children are filling their pockets with food. In some establishments that would be called stealing. We call it survival.”

Louise Regan, head teacher at a school in Nottinghamshire, added: “When you take children out to an event, maybe a sporting event, you see children of the same age from school in an affluent area.

“It’s the grey skin, the pallor. It’s the pallor you really notice.”

Louise also said that Monday is the worst day of the week, as many school children arrive hungry and are tired by 9.30am. She said her school supplies some pupils with clean uniforms, but many return on Monday in the same, unwashed clothes.

Lynn’s school has washing machines to clean the children’s clothes as they take part in PE. “We wouldn’t have it that these children are stigmatised because their clothes are dirty,” she said.

Howard Payne, head teacher at an inner city school in Portsmouth, commented that he has seen a four-fold increase in children with child protection issues. Every single one of these issues stems from the poverty that child lives in, Howard said.

All head teachers speaking at the NEU conference agreed the situation is worsening, as social and emotional support services become increasingly scarce.

NEU research conducted with the Child Poverty Action Group found that more and more schools are taking steps to fill the poverty gap. Nearly half of the 900 respondents said they offer one or more anti-poverty services like a food bank, clothes bank and sometimes, emergency loans to families in need.

Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, commented: “With nine children in every classroom of 30 falling below the official poverty line, it is time to rebuild the safety net for struggling families.”

What does your school do to support struggling families? Do you think the situation has worsened recently?


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