School staff using wages to buy pupils food as cost of living crisis leaves many struggling

Report by Anna Youssef

School staff are using their wages to buy food to make sure children in their care do not go hungry - even if they are in debt themselves.

Kings Road Primary School in Manchester says it is struggling to stock its food bank and relies on teachers to subsidise the service themselves.

The school regularly provides necessities for those in need, but it is so well-used it often runs out of food.

Joanne Whiteside, the school's child and family mentor, says she has never seen anything like the current cost of living crisis.

She said: "I've been here for 12 years and I never thought I'd be in the position where I'd have to regularly ask staff for food so we can feed our families.

"I have staff who are telling me they're struggling now and for the first time they're in their overdraft when they've done their shopping- so it's having an impact on all of us."

Joanne Whiteside says staff at Kings Primary School in Manchester are buying food for their students to stop them going hungry

She added that she has also noticed that even those from families who have parents in consistent work are struggling to feed and clothe their children.

She said: "At one point those families I helped were families I was always aware of - they would be involved with other services.

"We're now seeing a shift and the families asking for help are often from two parent families where both of them are working and they're struggling to pay the mortgage and the bills."

Nearly a quarter of pupils are now eligible for free school meals, that's up a third since the start of the pandemic

New research carried out for the End Child Poverty Coalition shows around eight children in an average school class are living in poverty.

And figures provided by the Department of Education show nearly a quarter of pupils are now eligible for free school meals - up a third since the start of the pandemic

As the cost of living crisis sweeps the country, families with young children are among those hardest hit.

They may only be in primary school but these pupils are still aware of the rising cost of living.

But, as many parents turn to their child's school for help, at the same time, schools are struggling with their own price hikes.

Headteacher Darren Morgan told me: "Our gas and electricity has risen by around 40%. Paper costs more.

"School meals now cost more. We buy in cleaners so that service costs more. The price of everything is going up and that is squeezing schools significantly."

The school is also rethinking its policy on school trips because it can no longer afford to subsidise them

Darren added: "Year Four went on a trip yesterday.

"That was £17- quite an expensive trip. 40% of our parents either wouldn't or couldn't pay for that trip so that means school swallows that cost.

"We cant continue to pay those costs going forward so we have to rethink so for me that means children are missing out genuinely on great opportunities for learning and enrichment."

Business Manager Pauline Grady says she envisages the cost of everything in this year's budget is likely to double

Tucked away in a back office, Pauline Grady the school business manager spends most of her day staring at spreadsheets and wading through invoices.

"She says price hikes are putting a huge strain on the school budget. Pauline tells me the price of paper alone has risen in a year from £7.49 for five reams of paper to £20.49  

She envisages that everything in this year's school budget will double in cost. How that will impact the school remains to be seen.

Liv Eren from Halton in Cheshire campaigns against child poverty. She spoke to Lucy Meacock and Gamal Fahnbulleh on 'Granada Reports'.

A spokesperson from The Department of Education said: “We know schools are facing cost pressures, in particular rising energy bills, and we are considering what further support we can provide to schools to reduce these.

“Cost increases should be seen in the wider context of funding for schools. In 2022-23, core schools funding will increase by £4bn compared to 2021-22 – a 7% cash terms per pupil boost. This will help schools to meet wider cost pressures, including energy prices."