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Children living in poverty badly hampered at schools – report

The report has found many children can not afford appropriate food or school uniforms Photo: Ian West/PA

Children living in poverty are being severely disadvantaged in the British school system, according to a new survey which warns crime is a consequence of inadequate support for such disadvantaged youth.

Problems in areas such as nutrition, the ability to gain adequate rest and the cost of school uniforms and transport were among issues hindering the education of poverty-stricken children, the poll by national children’s charity Buttle UK found.

Buttle UK polled 1,200 child support workers across the UK to gain their insights into how poverty affected a child’s education.

It found 88% of frontline workers had seen parents unable to afford basics such as food, fuel and other household items at least once a week, with 77% seeing children who had to be fed either breakfast or dinner at school.

A total of 55% of respondents had worked with children who did not have an appropriate bed of their own at least once a week.

“Not having regular nutritious meals at home or not having an appropriate bed to sleep in means that children do not have the basic foundations for healthy growth or the energy to concentrate at school and learn,” the report said.

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“Not being able to afford fuel and travel costs means that children are simply unable to attend school altogether.”

Meanwhile, 79% of frontline workers saw parents who were “struggling” to afford the costs associated with schools at least once a week, 61% found parents who had trouble with internet access just as often, and 66% reported working with parents who at least once each week could not afford the cost of cleaning children’s clothes.

“Being unable to afford school uniform or the correct equipment results in children not being able to take certain subjects, or even attend certain schools at all,” the report said, adding bullying was “a huge concern” when children were unable to dress like their peers or have poor quality shoes or school bags.

“A common theme reported was that families often cannot afford heating or hot water. Not being able to provide a clean, warm living environment means that children are more likely to become ill and miss school, or not attend school due to not having appropriate clothing. These problems can also increase bullying within schools.”

The report, released as children go back to school this week, called for greater support for education “from local authorities, schools and third sector organisations” for disadvantaged children, warning crime could spring from a hampered education.

“The issues outlined above are worsened by the reduction in support available to children and young people in poverty, which prevents them from having equal access to education,” the report said.

“High levels of exclusions and a reduction in appropriate support from schools mean that children often turn to crime, and a lack of welfare support means that parents and children turn to crime in order to afford the essentials.”