Children in the United Kingdom go to school hungry, ill and inadequately clothed, which impedes their ability to concentrate and learn, a new teacher survey with more than 2,400 respondents reveals.
Teachers say their students are experiencing “Victorian conditions” and argue this is the result of poor housing and poverty. Even in occasions when students are sick, they’re still sent to school because parents cannot afford to take time off work.
The teacher survey found that 69% of teachers report seeing students coming to school hungry. Eight in ten teachers say they’ve witnessed students arriving at school in damaged or weather-inappropriate clothing and footwear. As The Guardian reports:
“In some cases, teachers reported being aware of pupils living in “Victorian conditions”, of youngsters coming to school with no socks or coat and of more families depending on food banks.”
More than half the teachers also say their students cannot afford a uniform. Teacher unions argue that social and economic policies make it hard for families to properly care of their children’s well-being and education.
Chris Keates, the general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), says:
“These are truly shocking statistics showing the lives of children and young people are being blighted and degraded by poverty and homelessness. Schools cannot be expected to pick up the pieces and have to overcome the profound adverse impact of poverty and homelessness alone.”
According to the NASUWT-commissioned survey, students arrive at school without adequate clothing and footwear and are often unable to participate in school activities because they cannot afford it. According to Gloucester Citizen, parents are sent letters regarding unpaid student meals.
A teacher reports of parents’ struggle to offer fundamental medical care to their children:
“Pupils who need medical attention, but parents are not taking them/unable to take them to the GP, optician and/or dentist.”
About 25% of the survey respondents said they had taken the matter into their own hands and brought meals for their students.
The founder of the Magic Breakfast, Carmel McConnell, who offers free breakfast for 17,000 students at more than 400 schools says the number of students in need of a meal has increased:
“At the very minimum there are half a million children who live in families who cannot afford to feed them…. It is not surprising that children are unable to learn when they are hungry.”
A Tory spokesman contradicts this argument, saying that the number of children living in poverty has decreased by 300,000. According to Sarah Cassidy of The Independent, the spokesman said:
“We are targeting an extra £2.5bn toward the education of the most disadvantaged every year. The NASUWT should recognise how the Conservatives have rescued the economy, and through that, are delivering the jobs that secure a better future for families.”