Monday, April 02, 2018

Schoolkids in poverty

Malnourished pupils with grey skin are "filling their pockets" with food from school canteens in poor areas due to poverty, head teachers say.

One head said: "My children have grey skin, poor teeth, poor hair, they are thinner."

A head teacher from a former industrial town in Cumbria said that hunger was particularly apparent after the weekend.

 "Children are filling their pockets with food. In some establishments that would be called stealing. We call it survival."
Another head teacher from Nottinghamshire said: "When you take children out to an event, maybe a sporting event, you see children of the same age from schools in an affluent area. It's the grey skin, the pallor. It's the pallor you really notice." She went on: "Monday morning is the worst. There are a number of families that we target that we know are going to be coming into school hungry. By the time it's 9.30am they are tired."  The school has a food bank which gives out food parcels and a supply of clothes, shoes and coats for those without.
 A head at an inner city school in Portsmouth, said there had been a four-fold increase in the number of children with child protection issues.
"Every one of these issues has had something to do with the poverty that they live in," he said. "It's neglect. It's because they and their families don't have enough money to provide food, heating or even bedding."
A head teacher from Cardiff, said children in her school often only brought a slice of bread and margarine for lunch and that teachers supplemented this.
"It's really difficult and when people are asking you about standards, why we don't go up the league tables? That's often a secondary consideration."
The National Education Union  published research it had carried out with the Child Poverty Action Group. It found schools are increasingly stepping in to fill the poverty gap, with almost half of the 900 respondents saying their school offered one or more anti-poverty services such as a food bank, clothes bank and even offering emergency loans to families. More than four-fifths said they say saw signs of children being hungry during the day and about the same said they say children showing signs of poor health. The survey found that 55% of teachers felt free school meal provision did not come close to meeting the needs of pupils from poor backgrounds. In the survey, 60% said child poverty in schools had worsened since 2015, and one in three said it had got significantly worse. 
Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: "With nine children in every classroom of 30 nine are falling below the official poverty line, it is time to rebuild the safety net for struggling families."

Celia Dignam, an NEU official responsible for child poverty, said the union’s survey revealed the reality of 4.1 million children living in poverty. Dignam noted that the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimated that 5 million children would be living in poverty by 2021.
“This is not a situation that is getting better, it’s actually getting significantly worse,” she said.  “From 2022 there’s going to be an income threshold for universal credit, so there are children currently entitled to free school meals who will not be getting them,” said Dignam. “We’re heading for an absolute crisis. You think we’ve got a crisis now but it’s going to get even worse"

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