Poverty blighting education, NASUWT warns

Teachers are being left to pick up the pieces of the Coalition Government’s failed education, social and economic policies, a fringe organised by the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union in the UK, has heard.

Chaired by NASUWT President Geoff Branner, the meeting at the Labour Party Conference in Manchester highlighted how savage economic policies are wreaking havoc on children’s education. 

The fringe, ‘Reclaiming the Promise for all Children and Young People’ heard how the educational progress and achievements of children and young people have been blighted by rising poverty, and by education policies which have fostered inequality.

Speakers were Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, Rushanara Ali, Shadow Minister for Education and Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said:

“Parents now no longer have the certainty that when they send their children to school they will be taught by a qualified teacher and children have lost that critical entitlement.

“Barriers to achievements for children with special needs and disabilities rise even higher as savage cuts to local authority budgets cause vital specialist support services to be axed.

“NASUWT research shows three-quarters of teachers now report regularly experiencing children coming to school so hungry they lack energy and are unable to concentrate.

“82% of teachers report that the children they teach do not have the proper footwear and clothing for the weather conditions.

“Teachers now are regularly giving increasing numbers of children money, food, clothes and equipment, at their own expense.

“This is a shameful catalogue of deprivation and misery and a scandalous, heart-breaking litany of broken promises to our children and young people.”

Rushanara Ali said:

“There are 2.6 million children who face poverty and that is projected to grow to nearly five million by 2020 according to the IFS. That is a huge national challenge; it will require massive efforts to tackle it.

“We need to think very creatively about how we deal with child poverty. There are areas where with limited resources we can still do a lot.

“We have set out a series of plans, starting with early years to increase the amount of time available for childcare provision to 25 hours per week.

“We will work towards safeguarding those Sure Start centres that remain; an urgent priority for us will be to bring a halt to this decline.

“Qualified, trained teachers, that is an absolute commitment in every classroom because all the evidence is that it is qualified, trained teachers that make a difference in people lives, particularly in state education.”

Alison Garnham said:

“If we are going to put a stop to the damage done by child poverty to childhoods and life chances then we need action on both sides of the school gate.

“Ending the classroom divide requires the Government to prioritise children to ensure they and their families have the basics they need to eat healthily and live decently-too many children are going to school to hungry to learn.

“The policies to reduce child poverty should not be seen as a cost, but as a saving, an investment in all of our futures.

“Child poverty is in urgent need of attention and we will all pay if we don’t address these issues.”

Lena Davies
Press and Media Officer
0121 457 6250 / 07867 392746