Children Go To School Sick And Hungry Because Parents Are Too Poor To Take Time Off

Tired child in primary school. (Photo by: Godong/UIG via Getty Images)
Tired child in primary school. (Photo by: Godong/UIG via Getty Images)

Children are turning up to school sick and hungry because their parents are too poor to take time off or to feed them properly, teachers say.

The NASUWT teaching union warned that some pupils are living in 'Victorian conditions' and their lives are being 'blighted and degraded by poverty and homelessness'.

Many children go to school with no socks or coat and more families are depending on food banks.

One said they had seen: "Pupils who come into school unwell. Often their parents cannot afford to take a day off work, and therefore send their children to school when they ought to be at home."

And another reported: "Pupils who need medical attention, but parents are not taking them/unable to take them to the GP, optician and/or dentist."

The survey of 2,452 teachers found that almost seven in 10 of teachers said they had seen pupils coming to school hungry, while 80 per cent had witnessed kids turning up in clothes that were inappropriate for the weather and similar proportions reported children arriving in unwashed or damaged and frayed clothing.

In addition, 78 per cent said they have seen pupils without appropriate footwear and 55 per cent had seen youngsters who were unable to afford uniform.

The findings give an indication of the impact of difficult financial circumstances on children, with around a third of those polled saying they had seen pupils who arrived or left school halfway through a term because they were forced to leave their homes.

The same proportion reported teaching children who were living in temporary accommodation and just over a fifth (said they knew of youngsters who had lost their homes due to money pressures.

Asked to share observations of the effects of financial hardship, one teacher said: "Children in 2015 should not be hungry and coming to school with no socks on and no coats – some children are living in Victorian conditions – in the inner cities."

Another said: "We are in a leafy rural area and still have children whose families depend on food banks."

Many teachers said they had noticed that financial pressures at home had an impact on youngsters in the classroom, saying that pupils in these circumstances were less able to concentrate, more likely to be absent or turn up late, show behaviour problems or lack confidence.

Almost one in five said they had lent or given pupils money, 24 per cent had given food and 62 per cent had lent out or given youngsters equipment. Others said they had seen colleagues, or their school, offer these items.

The NASUWT general secretary, Chris Keates, said: "These are truly shocking statistics that show the lives of children and young people are being blighted and degraded by poverty and homelessness."

She added: "Poverty and homelessness take a physical and emotional toll on children. They often cannot concentrate when they are in school because they are tired and hungry, have no space to do homework and have to travel long distances to get to school from temporary accommodation. They are likely to suffer more ill health and absenteeism."