School survey reveals how poverty blights children's lives

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Fifty-five per cent of school support staff have seen an increase this year in the number of children relying on breakfast clubs, finds new research.

Around 85 per cent of the 3,000 staff who took part in the survey, including teaching assistants, learning support staff, school business managers, and school meals workers, reported that children turn up at school hungry.

According to the research by the union Unison, more than half of those surveyed have seen an increase in the number of children relying on breakfast clubs.

The majority of respondents, 87 per cent, said children are coming to school tired and 80 per cent reported seeing children coming to school without proper uniforms or in worn out clothes.

A further 57 per cent see pupils in their school in poor physical health and 55 per cent of school support staff believe some children appear to be suffering from mental health issues as a result of rising poverty.

More than 70 per cent of respondents believe that poverty has a negative impact on the education of the children in their school.

Jon Richards, Unison’s head of education, said, ‘The impact of poverty blights the life chances of children even before they walk through the school gates. Education is a vital route out of poverty, but our survey exposes the very real fears of school staff for the physical and mental well-being of the children they see every day in class.

‘It is shocking that so many school staff are reporting children coming into class hungry. How can any child be expected to concentrate on their lessons when they have not had enough to eat?

‘Poverty affects all areas of a child’s life, their health, the results they achieve in school and their future employment prospects. We live in the seventh richest country in the world and yet this survey shows a divided nation with the poorest suffering welfare cuts and the blight of unemployment.’

He added, ‘It is a sad fact that many of the children living in poverty have parents who are working. Unison has seen a massive increase over the last few years  in requests to our welfare fund for help including grants for school uniforms.

‘The Government needs to take note of these findings and acknowledge the serious damage that its cuts agenda is having on the most vulnerable in our society.’
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