Ghost Children: Teachers Warn Of Exhausted Kids And Over-Worked Parents

14/08/2014 17:00 | Updated 20 May 2015

Boy sleepy at school

A generation of primary children are exhausted, spending up to 10 hours a day at school because their parents work so hard.

Teachers say kids as young as four regularly fall asleep, rarely speak to anyone and fall behind less stressed classmates.

They have breakfast, lunch and their evening meal at school – and it's all because of the incredible demands of the workplace on mums and dads.

An early-years teacher from a state school in North Yorkshire said some children were placed in before and after-school care from 8am to 6pm.

She said: "These children walk around like ghosts, do not talk to anyone, fall asleep frequently, do not progress as quickly as their peers. Their parents are also 'too busy' to support them in an adequate way at home."

A primary school teacher in Bexley, South East London, sympathised with parents, saying: "I feel that, through no fault of the parents, there is an expectation to work before looking after your own family.

'Ghost Children' Lagging Behind Classmates

"Living costs mean it is unaffordable for only one parent to work, and there is less importance attached to bringing up children."

The problem was highlighted during a survey of school staff by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

It found that more than half of teachers and support staff believe children are spending less time with their parents than two years ago.

Mary Bousted, the ATL general secretary, said financial and work pressures were destroying families' work-life balance.

She said: "We are the 'poor man of Europe' when it comes to unpaid overtime and more needs to be done to support families and children so that they can spend more time together.

"It's really important for children to have time to be children, to play with friends and spend time with their families. However, increasing living costs mean that for most families it is now unaffordable for only one parent to work."

Most of the teachers who believed that children spent less time with their parents put it down to work commitments, the increasing use of technology in the home and more time spent watching television.

When questioned about the number of hours a young person should spend in timetabled education, 50 per cent of education staff said five hours a day at primary school was enough, with 28 per cent saying it should be less than five hours.

At secondary level, 38 per cent of education staff said a six-hour day was suitable, while 45 per cent said young people should spend no more than 5.5 hours a day in timetabled education.

Of the teachers who thought the timetabled day was too long, many said it caused tiredness among pupils (93 per cent), damaged pupils' ability to concentrate (87 per cent) and caused disruptive behaviour (67 per cent).

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