‘Cold, hungry kids with shoes held together with tape’ – Teachers report “dickensian” winter poverty

A poll has found poverty has got worse in the last three years

Children are increasingly coming to school hungry and with no clothes fit for the winter weather, according to a poll of over 1,000 teachers.

Living in poverty causes problems for childrens’ education by affecting their concentration, punctuality, attendance and health.

The teachers said that hunger was a major problem which is worse than it was three years ago. 

Of those surveyed by the National Education Union (NEU), 53% said more children will now go hungry over Christmas and 46% said holiday hunger is worse than it was in 2015.

According to one teacher:

“We give free school dinners to children who don’t qualify for them because their parents work but have contacted us to say they have no money that day”

As well as coming in hungry, lots of kids don’t have clothes suitable for the winter cold.

“We are buying them coats on a scale never seen before,” said one teacher. 

“Kids come in without winter coats even in the coldest weather, or with shoes held together by tape,” said another.

Around 63% of respondents say that more families are unable to afford adequate winter clothes or shoes compared to three years ago.

Because these childrens’ parents are in poverty, already cash-strapped schools are having to buy the children extra clothes. Around 40% of respondents said their schools were having to do this.

In October, Chancellor Phillip Hammond was criticised for giving schools just £400m in his budget and saying it was to “buy the little extras they need”.

Hammond said this was ““a nice gesture”, which would help schools afford “a whiteboard, a couple of computers, whatever it is they want to buy”.

Commenting on the poll, the NEU’s General Secretary said: 

“This is a Dickensian picture of the poverty that far too many children and their families are having to endure. The Government is out of touch with the distressing new reality of children’s daily lives: with what it means to live without enough money for basics, such as food, shoes and adequate clothing.

“The Government has failed to recognise the human cost of its cuts to schools and other children’s services and to the social security system, and its failure to address the in-work poverty faced by 1 in 5 workers.

“The UN Envoy Philip Alston concluded in his recent report that the Government is in a state of denial about the levels of poverty in the UK. The Government must stop hiding from the facts. Children can’t escape the poverty trap without an urgent change to national policies.”

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