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School children suffering under austerity in winter

CHILDREN are going to school cold, hungry and embarrassed because their parents and guardians cannot afford to buy appropriate winter clothes or food, a shocking survey of teachers reveals today.

Among the reports from the 1,026 teachers surveyed by the National Education Union (NEU) were that pupils were “mute, going cold, making excuses, feeling ashamed” about their lack of basic clothing and belongings needed for winter weather.

They are also having to go to school with holes in their shoes, footwear being held together with adhesives, having no outside coat and wearing trousers that are too short.

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

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

A school is giving free school dinners to those who are not eligible because their parents work, but had contacted the staff to say they have no money that day, one survey respondent reported.

“One student wore his trousers backwards as he didn’t want anyone to know he had holes in the knees,” according to another teacher.

Almost two-thirds of teachers (63 per cent) told the NEU that more families are unable to afford cold weather clothing and footwear compared to three years before.

Just over half (53 per cent) said that they believe children and young people will go hungry over Christmas because they would be unable to get free school meals.

Just under half (46 per cent) of teachers said that they have seen or heard that there are more children living in poor quality, insecure, overcrowded or temporary homes.

Schools are also having to provide extra items for children and young people and their families because of increased poverty, 40 per cent of the teachers said.
 
The poll also revealed the stark impact of living in poverty on children and young people’s education. Teachers observed a wide range of consequences including absence (83 per cent), behavioural (85 per cent), concentration (81 per cent) and health (59 per cent) issues, as well as lateness (79 per cent).
 
NEU joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “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 one in five 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.”

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said a Labour government will end austerity and school budget cuts, as well as provide free daily meals for all primary school children.

She said: “These figures paint a shocking picture of the impact of the Tories’ austerity programme on a generation of children who are impoverished through no fault of their own.

“Growing up in such hardship has a major influence on education, health and welfare, and quite simply it is harder to learn if you are hungry or homeless.

“Schools are being left to fend for themselves and deal with the consequences, despite years of swingeing cuts to their own budgets under the Tories.”

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