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School staff under pressure to feed pupils out of their own pockets, GMB study finds

SCHOOL staff feel under pressure to feed children who attend classes without having eaten breakfast or receiving any dinner money, a GMB study has found.

Of the 4,600 school support staff surveyed, 8 per cent felt they had to spend their own money on food for hungry pupils.

GMB national officer Karen Leonard said: “It beggars belief that in one of the richest countries in the world not only are kids coming into school starving – but this government is cutting free school dinners at the same time.

“Hungry children cannot learn effectively – Conservative cuts to education are endangering the future of an entire generation of young people.

“Meanwhile dedicated staff are left out of pocket because they refuse to allow kids to go hungry. It’s a scandal – and only properly funding our schools can give our kids the education they deserve.”

More than half of those surveyed said they were spending their own money on tampons, pens, pencils, books, toilet paper and toys for break time for children.

In total, 78 per cent of staff say their school has been forced to make “significant financial cutbacks” because of government underfunding of schools.

Labour’s shadow education secretary Angela Rayner told the Star: “This paints a shocking picture of the poverty facing too many children, with school staff doing everything they can to look after them despite often struggling on low pay themselves.”

She said Labour will reverse cuts to school budgets, restore fair pay for staff, provide free sanitary products for girls, and give every primary school pupil free meals, all to be paid for by ending tax breaks enjoyed by private schools.

Previously, a Department for Education analysis revealed that up to 2.6 million children could lose out on free school meals by 2022 due to government plans.

Food and farming charity Sustain deputy chief executive Ben Reynolds told the Star that the findings were “desperately sad” but not surprising.

He said: “Only half of children in poverty are eligible for free school meals. The government must reconsider its position and extend free school meals to all kids from families on Universal Credit.

“Not funding free school meals for all is doubly short-sighted in light of the government’s own commitment to reduce childhood obesity.

“Studies show that providing a decent, healthy school meal not only stops a child going hungry but also builds up good eating habits and cuts down on eating junk.

“We know that obesity is more prevalent in low-income families, so it’s not just hunger we could be tackling here.”

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