A survey by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has revealed a disturbing increase in pupil poverty.
The survey, completed by over 400 headteachers and representing 11% of state-funded secondary schools, 374 from England and 33 from Wales, found that an alarming 96% of these polled said that pupil poverty has increased over the past few years.
Other stats found that:
- 91% provide items of clothing for pupils suffering from high levels of disadvantage
- 75% put on breakfast clubs
- 71% provide pupils with sanitary products
- 47% wash clothes for pupils
- 43% provide food banks or food parcels for pupils/ families
- 92% said there have been cutbacks in local authority support for vulnerable families and young people in their area over the past few years
- 98% have experienced difficulty in accessing local mental health services for pupils who need specialist treatment – with most attributing this difficulty to a combination of service cut backs and increased demand
- Nearly all respondents – 405 – reported increased demand for in-school mental health support, with commonly cited reasons being the pressures associated with social media, poverty, cuts to local services, and exams
These findings come against a background of intense pressure on school budgets. Almost all respondents (404) have had to cut their budgets since 2015 with 60% saying they have had to make severe cuts.
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “A decade of austerity has wreaked havoc with the social fabric of the nation and schools have been left to pick up the pieces while coping with real-term funding cuts.
“They have become an unofficial fourth emergency service for poor and vulnerable children, providing food and clothing and filling in the gaps left by cut backs to local services.
“Politicians must end their fixation with Brexit and work together to build a new sense of social mission in our country. We simply must do better for struggling families and invest properly in our schools, colleges and other vital public services.”
Commenting on the extent of pupil poverty, Sarah Bone, headteacher of Headlands School in Bridlington, said: “We have far too many children with no heating in the home, no food in the cupboards, washing themselves with cold water, walking to school with holes in their shoes and trousers that are ill-fitted and completely worn out, and living on one hot meal a day provided at school.”