CHILDREN are turning up for school cold, hungry and wearing unwashed clothes because their families face such financial hardship, a teaching union has warned.
Some teachers told of pupils “hugging radiators” to keep warm, bringing in mouldy food in their lunch boxes and getting upset when they lose basic items such as pencils and rubbers, a survey released today by NASUWT has revealed.
In some cases, youngsters are arriving for lessons unable to concentrate and without the right equipment, the poll of almost 4,000 union members showed.
And many teachers are resorting to giving pupils money out of their own pocket, providing food and lending clothes to help out.
The NASUWT commissioned the survey in response to concerns raised by teachers about the long-term impact of Government economic policies on children and young people.
Almost three quarters of teachers, 74 per cent, have seen pupils coming to school hungry, with 80 per cent saying that youngsters had been lacking in energy and concentration because they were eating poorly.
Over four fifths said that they seen pupils turning up to school in inappropriate clothing, with similar proportions saying children had clothes that were unwashed, or damaged and frayed.
Around 77 per cent said that there had been pupils at their school who did not have the right equipment for lessons.
One teacher said they had seen “a child being possessive and anxious about their personal possessions and becoming very upset when they lost a pencil and rubber because ‘they were really expensive’”.
The poll reveals that nearly a third of teachers had seen pupils arrive or leave school mid-year because they had been forced to leave their homes, while 27 per cent said they had experience of students losing their homes due to financial problems.
One NASUWT member said: “I have never known such abject poverty as my pupils are suffering at the moment.
“Many are affected by the cold; they cannot complete any work at home as a result of lack of heat, warmth, equipment, and we are seeing more pupils being told by their parents to stay behind in school at night in order to make sure they can do their homework with light and warmth.”
NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “The lives of children and young people are being degraded by poverty and homelessness. Teachers and other public service workers are struggling to pick up the pieces caused by this Coalition’s economic and social policies.”
A Department for Education spokeswoman said the Government was taking “decisive action” to help disadvantaged pupils.
“Around 1.3 million children currently receive a free, nutritious meal at school. We are extending this to all five to seven-year-olds in state maintained schools from September and allocating more than £1 million to help schools establish more breakfast clubs,” she said.
Extra investment had been ploughed into the Pupil Premium to give schools the additional resources for disadvantaged pupils, she added.