More children in England cannot afford school meals, lack warm clothing, and struggle to concentrate in class, according to a new survey.
Education charity the Sutton Trust surveyed 6,200 state school teachers during the autumn term and found staff were seeing “serious issues linked to the cost of living crisis”.
Some 52% of senior teaching leaders experienced an increase in the number of pupils – who aren’t eligible for free school meals – unable to afford lunch. But there were wide variations.
In the most deprived schools that figure rose to 59%, compared to 44% in the least deprived areas.
Teachers also reported other issues:
• 38% said more children were coming to school hungry (rising to 56% in the most deprived schools)
• 54% saw an increase in kids without adequate winter clothing (but 65% in the poorest areas)
• 17% had more families asking to be referred to a foodbank (increasing to 27% in the least well off places)
Facts ‘stark and shaming’
Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: “It’s a scandal that in one of the world’s richest countries growing numbers of children are going without basics such as food and warm clothing,
“The facts are stark and shaming,” adding that, “it’s a fact that children who arrive at school hungry have difficulty learning.”
More than two thirds of teachers said the cost of living crisis is likely to increase the attainment gap between the most advantaged and least well-off pupils within their school.
Cost of living crisis ‘harming education’
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, described the figures as “completely unacceptable” and said schools “desperately need” the Government to intervene.
The National Education Union (NEU) also agreed with Sutton Trust.
Joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted blamed “restrictive eligibility for free school meals”, adding that “offering free school meals to all children in primary school would be a welcome first step in tackling the epidemic of child hunger”.
Meanwhile Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT general secretary, said: “There can be little doubt that the cost of living crisis is harming pupils’ education, learning and development. An emergency response is needed to deliver extra help for children, schools and families.”
The Sutton Trust has criticised the Government for ignoring pleas to widen eligibility for free school meals in its November budget.
The Department for Education said: “Over a third of pupils in England currently receive free school meals in education settings and we are investing up to £24m in our national school breakfast programme, which provides free breakfasts to children in schools in disadvantaged areas.
“In addition, eight million of the most vulnerable households will get at least £1,200 of cost-of-living support this year on top of benefit from the energy price guarantee.”