Research completed by the National Education Union (NEU) says that teachers are seeing “distressing” levels of child poverty in schools this winter, with some buying their pupils winter jackets, and one school has set up a food bank.
Over 50% of teachers have said that fewer families were able to afford adequate footwear or clothing this winter, compared to three years ago. In separate research, the Young Women’s Trust shows that 25% of parents are expecting to get into debt over the Christmas period.
The NEU research shows that 40% of teachers said schools were having to provide more items for children and their parents because of increased poverty. Some teachers claim that some pupils are “feeling ashamed” from wearing clothes that don’t fit, and broken shoes. Some also said that children were “going cold”.
One teacher said: “One student wore his trousers backwards as he didn’t want anyone to know he had holes in the knees,” while another said: “Kids come in without winter coats even in the coldest weather, or with shoes held together by tape.”
The research comes after the UN called the government’s approach “mean-spirited” towards the country’s poorest and most vulnerable. Philip Alston from the UN said he was concerned that families were becoming dependent on food banks.
Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said that the NEU report shows the outcome of Conservatives austerity programme.
“These figures paint a shocking picture of the impact of the Tories’ austerity programme on a generation of children, who are impoverished through no fault of their own.
“Growing up in such hardship has a major influence on education, health and welfare, and quite simply it is harder to learn if you are hungry or homeless.”
A government spokesperson has said that they are taking action against the issues that the NEU report highlighted, and claimed that fewer children are living in poverty since the Conservatives took charge of the country.
“Teachers shouldn’t have to step in to tackle the issues highlighted by this survey, and we’re already taking action to make sure that they don’t have to. Since 2010 there are 300,000 fewer children living in absolute poverty, employment is at a record high and we’re committed to ensuring that every child gets the very best chances in life.
“We continue to spend £90bn a year on welfare to support those who need it most, have introduced the National Living Wage and helped workers keep more of the money they earn by cutting taxes for 31 million people by an average of £1,000.
“On top of this, we’ve introduced funding to support thousands of disadvantaged families in the school holidays to ensure they get the extra help they need.”