Every child deserves the best chance in life - but a new survey by the National Education Union (NEU) suggests many do not have that opportunity. At least half of respondents said that there were children at their school who would go hungry over Christmas and almost two thirds believed more families were unable to afford adequate shoes and clothing this winter compared to in 2015 - shameful findings for which the union blames cuts to welfare, schools and children’s services.
This “Dickensian picture” of poverty, as Joint General Secretary of the NEU Dr Mary Bousted rightly puts it, is deeply worrying and it is simply unacceptable that in 2018 any child should go hungry irrespective of the time of the year or that their welfare should be compromised in this way.
Equally concerning is that more than 80 per cent of teachers identified a rise in absences and concentration and behavioural issues among children whose families were struggling to make ends meet, an alarming indication that those in poverty are disadvantaged when it comes to education and preparation for adult life.
Though much of the Government’s focus is understandably on the UK’s imminent exit from the European Union, this survey should serve as a reminder to those in power that they must not take their eye off the ball when it comes to domestic matters. For we cannot ignore the distressing reality faced by far too many families and children in this country.