Today, school leaders’ union NAHT and CPAG, the Child Poverty Action Group have written to all English MPs to appeal to them to take more urgent action to bring child poverty to an end.
The letter contains thirteen examples from school leaders about the impact of austerity on schoolchildren.
As the letter says, children are more aware of and worried by their parents’ money troubles. They are often not ready to learn. They are embarrassed and ashamed.
Alison Garnham, Chief Executive, Child Poverty Action Group said: “As a country we want every child to enjoy school and to grow through learning but, as head teachers are testifying, rising child poverty is taking the joy out of school days – and limiting life chances – for more and more of our children.
“Years of austerity have left low-income families with too little to live on and we have reached crisis point. Parents’ anxiety about money extends to children who carry it with them into the classroom so that they are not free to learn because they are focused on survival. That isn’t right – it undermines our shared belief that every child matters and deserves a chance to succeed.”
Judy Shaw, NAHT’s new National President said: “75% of school leaders reported seeing an increase or significant increase in the number of parents coming to school to ask for financial support or support with essentials in the last five years. Across the country, schools are supporting children who are hungry, inadequately clothed, cold, tired because they are sharing a bed and living in cramped and crowded homes with little space and few amenities.”
Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, said: “Austerity is not just a temporary phase for some families to endure, it is a day to day reality. Children who are hungry cannot learn as well as they might be able to. Free school meals at least guarantee that children get one nutritious meal a day during term time. We must do all that we can to extend that entitlement to every child that is going hungry, and we must fix the problems in society that cause families to fall in to the poverty trap.
"Currently one in ten eligible children miss out on their free school meals entitlement. NAHT has long called for children to be automatically enrolled to receive free school meals, using the information councils already hold about their family situation. This would take away the barrier of stigma for parents.”
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