Pupils’ educational opportunities blighted by the Coalition’s social and economic policies

The educational opportunities of children and young people are being blighted by the impact of the Coalition’s social and economic policies, teachers are reporting.

A survey commissioned by the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union, asking teachers to share experiences of the impact of family financial pressures on their pupils which they had witnessed in the last 12 months elicited stories of children coming to school hungry and unable to concentrate, exhausted from living in cramped and inadequate housing and unable to afford to join in activities such as school trips.

Almost 4,000 teachers responded to the survey from a range of schools.

Around a quarter of teachers who responded said they worked in schools with an ‘average’ demographic in terms of deprivation.

Results included:

•           80% said pupils are lacking energy and concentration as a result of eating poorly;
•           82% said pupils were arriving to school in clothes inappropriate for the weather conditions;
•           27% said they had brought in food for hungry pupils themselves and 63% said they had lent or given pupils school equipment;
•           53% said they had witnessed pupils missing out on important educational activities due to lack of money to pay for them.

Housing was reported as a significant problem, with 27% of respondents saying they knew of pupils who had lost their homes, and 36% saying they had taught pupils who were living in temporary accommodation such as B&Bs and hostels. Some teachers talked about the physical and emotional toll this was taking on pupils, many of whom were having to share beds, had no time or space for homework, and were forced to travel long distances to school.

When asked what effect financial pressures were having on pupils, 69% said they were more likely to be absent from class, 66% said they are less likely to be able to concentrate in lessons, whilst 40% said their pupils were more likely to feel disaffected and alienated.

Comments included: “Their whole outlook is one of misery and dejection. It is hard for them to feel hope for their future. “They are sad and ashamed. All day, every day.”

According to the charity Child Poverty Action 3.5 million children live in poverty in this country with the figure set to rise by 600,000 by 2015/16 as a result of this Coalition Government’s policies.

On Christmas Day last year over 80,000 children were homeless.

35% of those using foodbanks are children.

The NASUWT has set up a foodbank at its Annual Conference in Birmingham this weekend to which Conference attendees, NASUWT members in the West Midlands and NASUWT staff are contributing. The food collected will be shared between four local food banks in the West Midlands area.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said:

“These are shocking, shameful and heartbreaking statistics.

“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.

“Poverty and homelessness take a physical and emotional toll on children. They often suffer more ill health and absenteeism from school, 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.

“Schools cannot overcome the profound adverse impact of poverty and homeless alone. The Government has a responsibility to tackle, not generate, poverty and homelessness.”

NASUWT Press Office contacts:

Ben Padley 07785 463 119
Lena Davies 07867 392 746
Amanda Williamson 07741 246 202

Notes to editors

The NASUWT’s Annual Conference 2014 is being held at the ICC in Birmingham from 18 to 21 April.

Almost 4,000 teachers took part in the financial hardship survey which ran during March 2014. A PDF of the report to be released at Conference is attached

Comments from teachers asked to share observations of the effects of financial hardship over the last 12 months included:

“Parents withdrawing children from school trips because they can’t afford them and see the school paying as charity which they are too proud to accept.”

“Children living in overcrowded homes with poor conditions. One child no bed and shares with siblings or parents.”

“We are having to provide breakfast and changes of clothes for children who come to school hungry and underdressed.”

“Councils also don't seem to take into account the travelling distance from where they re-house families to the school – some families in my school have to take 3 buses to get their children to school after having been re-housed and this can take them an hour and a half or more.”

“Pupils who are complaining of feeling sick because they're so hungry in lessons, some students with poor personal hygiene due to family issues at home, some teachers leaving food in classrooms for certain students as they know that they won't have eaten either breakfast that morning or possibly tea the night before.”

“Increasing numbers of children who confide that they are hungry and are desperate for lunch-time. They ask me if it is nearly lunch-time.”

“One child told a teacher they weren't always able to feed their dog, so sometimes he will give his food to the dog.”

“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".

“Children practically hugging radiators.  Children eating at friends’ houses because they don't have food at home. Mouldy food in packed lunch boxes.”

“I have a child in my class who is homeless. He is very concerned about the situation he and his mother are in. He has made little progress and hates living in a noisy hostel with other residents….This is no way to spend a childhood.”

“A lot of children do not have basic items of stationery at home with which to do homework.”

“Getting off the bus much earlier and walking because it is cheaper than coming all the way.”

Ben Padley,
Press and Media Officer,
Campaigns and Communications,
Hillscourt Education Centre
B45 8RS

Direct Line: 0121 457 6269
Mobile: 07785 463 119