‘Shattering children’s life chances cannot simply be regarded as collateral damage’, says NASUWT

Commenting in advance of release of the latest official figures on child poverty, released today (Thursday), Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union in the UK, said:

“If, as expected, the figures show that child poverty levels have risen yet again, this is a shameful indictment of the economic and social policies of the Coalition Government.

“It is equally shameful that the Government is committed to continuing the policies which have led to this anticipated rise.

“Teachers are witnessing firsthand the impact of poverty on the children they teach.

“Three-quarters of teachers recently surveyed by the NASUWT say they have witnessed more and more children coming to school too hungry to concentrate and without clothing and footwear appropriate to the weather conditions.

“Children are increasingly being denied educational opportunities because of their parents’ inability to pay for educational visits.

“Evidence shows that too many young people are choosing subject options on the basis, not of their skills and aspirations, but on the basis of whether their parents can afford the books, equipment and other resources a particular course demands.

“Schools and teachers are being left to pick up the pieces.

“The shattering of children’s life chances cannot simply be regarded as collateral damage.

“Yet scandalously, rather than embarking on a strategy to tackle poverty and inequality, it now appears the Government plans to change the definition of child poverty in an attempt to mask the terrible toll its policies are taking on our children and young people. Our children and young people deserve better.”

Notes to editors

Earlier this year the NASUWT released the findings of a survey of almost 2,500 teachers about their experiences of financial hardship and poverty among the children they teach.

Results included:

  • 78% said pupils are lacking energy and concentration as a result of eating poorly;
  • 69% of teachers have seen pupils coming to school hungry
  • 80% said pupils were arriving to school in clothes inappropriate for the weather conditions;
  • 24% said they had brought in food for hungry pupils themselves and 62% said they had lent or given pupils school equipment;
  • 56% said they had seen their school give food to pupils.

When asked about how financial pressures affect pupils, 72% said they were more likely to be absent from school, 65% said they were less able to concentrate in lessons, 60% said they caused behaviour problems and 40% said they felt alienated and disaffected.

Housing was reported as a significant problem, with 22% of respondents saying they knew of pupils who had lost their homes due to financial pressures, and 32% saying they had taught pupils who were living in temporary accommodation such as B&Bs and hostels.

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