Schools survey reveals shocking levels of poverty

A survey of nearly 3,000 school support staff* reveals the shocking impact of poverty on the children in their schools.
The survey by UNISON, the UK’s largest union, covered all areas of the UK and shows that:

  • 87% say children are coming to school tired
  • 85% say children are coming to school hungry
  • 80% see children coming to school without proper uniforms or in worn out clothes
  • 73% believe that poverty has a negative impact on the education of the children in their school
  • 57% see the children in their school in poor physical health
  • 55% believe that some children at their school appear to be suffering mental health issues as a result of rising poverty levels
  • 55% have seen an increase in the number of children who rely on breakfast clubs in this school year

Jon Richards, UNISON 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 wellbeing 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?  Not standing out is important for many children and so not having a proper uniform or wearing old and worn out clothes can be very stressful and lead to bullying.

“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 7th richest country on the planet and yet this survey shows a divided nation with the poorest suffering from the effect of welfare cuts and the blight of unemployment.

“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 dished up more harsh news in the spending review yesterday, but it needs to face up to the dire consequences of austerity on families.   It 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.”

*Teaching assistants, learning support staff, school business managers, technicians, school meals workers and other support staff.

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