The National Union of Head Teachers’ (NAHT) survey of more than 2,000 of its members shows that 84 per cent have provided welfare support for children from deprived backgrounds.
The majority of respondents said they were providing more of this type of support than five years ago.
Head teachers reported providing children with food, basic items of clothing - such as underwear, items of school uniform and equipment, including school bags and stationery.
Almost one-quarter frequently or occasionally wash pupils’ clothes, and more than one in ten provide showers.
Other examples of the types of support schools are providing include supplying head lice treatments and hair cuts, running a food bank and buying birthday cards and presents for pupils who otherwise would go without.
When asked how much they spent per year from their schools budget on this type of support, primary head teachers reported an average of £2,000 and £3,000 for those in secondary schools.
The NAHT says if these figures are applied to the total number of state-funded primary (3, 329) and secondary schools (16,788) in England, the total cost of providing such support nationally is £43.5 million a year.
More than four in five head teachers said they believed a change in the financial circumstances of pupils’ families had led to an increase in the number of pupils needing welfare support.
A reduction in the services previously delivered by social care and health, was also identified as a reason.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, said, ‘Regardless of the promise to protect education spending in the next parliament, cuts to other public services will come home to roost at the school gates. Schools are already finding that they are providing unfunded support.
‘This is money that schools are having to find to help families who have been left high and dry by cuts to public services. This pressure is only going to increase. We know that whichever political party holds power after next week, deeper cuts are coming.’
He added, ‘This is a hidden, national scandal that’s going to hit families very hard, very soon.
‘We’d like to see Government departments working together to give schools the information they need so that low-income families get the support they are entitled to. At the moment the burden of proof falls on the families themselves and children are missing out. This just isn’t right.’