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Schools Have Become The 'Fourth Emergency Service' For Poorest Pupils

More than nine in ten headteachers reported that they’ve provided clothing for pupils in need, and nearly half have washed clothes for pupils and provided food for children and their families. 

A survey of headteachers has revealed the increasingly shocking levels of poverty schoolchildren in the UK are enduring.

The poll of over 400 heads revealed that almost all (96 per cent) of state secondary school leaders believe pupil poverty has significantly worsened over the past few years.

More than nine in 10 headteachers reported that they’ve provided clothing for pupils in need, and nearly half have washed clothes for pupils and provided food for children and their families. 

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Some headteachers have reported children arriving at school with holes in their shoes while others say they have had to provide clothes, food and sanitary products to disadvantaged pupils, a survey from the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has found. 

As a result, teachers have requested that the government urgently increase funding to help them support a growing number of pupils suffering with complex needs, reports The Independent.

Sarah Bone, headteacher of Headlands school in Yorkshire said: “We have far too many children with no heating in the home, no food in the cupboards, washing themselves with cold water, walking to school with holes in their shoes and trousers that are ill-fitted and completely worn out, and living on one hot meal a day provided at school.”

Other heads reported pupils with no winter coats, while others said they regularly had to buy shoes for their pupils.

“A decade of austerity has wreaked havoc with the social fabric of the nation and schools have been left to pick up the pieces while coping with real-term funding cuts,” said Geoff Barton, the ASCL’s general secretary.

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“They have become an unofficial fourth emergency service for poor and vulnerable children, providing food and clothing and filling in the gaps left by cutbacks to local services.

“Politicians must end their fixation with Brexit and work together to build a new sense of social mission in our country. We simply must do better for struggling families and invest properly in our schools, colleges and other vital public services.”

It comes as 60 per cent of school leaders say they have had to make severe cuts in their budgets in recent years and over nine in 10 say there have been cuts in local authority support for young people, and nearly all have struggled to access mental health services for pupils who need specialist treatment.

A government spokeswoman said: “Everyone should have the chance to fulfil that spark of potential which exists in all of us and it a fundamental part of the Department for Education’s purpose.

“This government is spending £90bn a year on welfare to support those who need it most, we’ve 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.”