Teachers are reporting a “significant increase” in child poverty, including pupils arriving at school after days without eating or with holes in their shoes.
The findings are part of a UK survey of more than 8,000 teachers, school leaders and support staff ahead of the National Education Union’s (NEU) annual conference in Liverpool this week.
More than half of members said their students had experienced hunger (57%) as a result of poverty.
One teacher reported “most of my class arrive at school hungry and thirsty” and another said “some students have mentioned that they have not had any food for two days, some come without having breakfast and with no dinner money but are not on free school meals”.
Parents being too poor to buy new clothes or keep them clean was also a big issue, with reports of children coming to school with “holes in their shoes or cheap shoes which are not weather proof… with no coats, no socks and without other essential items of clothing.”
Another added: “Several wear clothing that is ill-fitting or not clean.
“Shoes are often ill-fitting or very worn, coats are often inadequate for weather.”
NEU joint general secretary Mary Bousted said the Government was “failing to recognise the human costs of its actions” of austerity policies.
It is truly shaming for the UK, one of the richest countries in the world. A decade of austerity has only served to place more children in poverty, while at the same time destroying the support structures for poor families
Dr Bousted said: “Government does not want to hear these stories from the frontline of teaching, but they must.
“It is truly shaming for the UK, one of the richest countries in the world.
“A decade of austerity has only served to place more children in poverty, while at the same time destroying the support structures for poor families.
“Government must stop blaming schools for the impact of its austerity policies upon the most vulnerable in our society and take action to alleviate the suffering of the increasing numbers who are living in poverty.”
Minister for children and families Nadhim Zahawi acknowledged “some families need more help” despite rising employment.
“While all infant children can benefit from our Universal Infant Free School Meals programme, we are making sure that more than a million of the most disadvantaged children are also accessing free school meals throughout their education – saving families around £400 per year,” he added.
“We are also investing £9 million to give more access to holiday clubs where they can benefit from activities and a nutritious meal during the school break.”