Scotland

Teachers 'provide food' for poor pupils

Classroom
Image caption Some teachers said they had provided pupils with spending money for school trips and fairs

Teachers are personally providing food and funding school uniforms for children living in poverty, according to a survey.

The survey of Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) members found 51% said they or colleagues had taken steps to help less-affluent pupils.

Many teachers said they had given pupils spending money for school trips and fairs.

And 60% said they had seen an increase in the number of pupils in poverty.

Other findings in the report included:

  • 53% of respondents reported seeing a rise in pupils coming to school with little or no food, snacks or money
  • 72% noted an increase in those without basic stationery, school-bags and PE equipment
  • 77% observed increased signs of poverty-related mental health issues
  • 46% said more pupils were unable to complete homework that required computer access at home

Andrea Bradley, EIS assistant secretary for education and equality, said: "The results clearly underline that low-income poverty significantly blights the day-to-day educational experiences of the 260,000 children and young people now living in poverty in Scotland.

"To the EIS, it is an outrage that over a quarter of the country's school-aged young people whose families are struggling on low income are prevented from benefiting, on an equal footing to the rest of their peers, from the many opportunities offered by the education system.

"Urgent and decisive action at all levels of government is essential to prevent further damage. Children's education and life chances cannot continue to be sacrificed in the name of austerity."

'Devastating impact'

She welcomed additional funding for schools from the Scottish government but said it was "against a backdrop of successive years of under-funding of comprehensive education, which must be addressed".

"Recent announcements around school governance, while perhaps having the potential to fill current gaps in the pedagogical support and professional learning opportunities available to schools, leave many bigger questions about the policies and resources required to close the poverty-related attainment gap unanswered," she added.

A Scottish government spokeswoman said it had taken steps to mitigate the "UK government's policy of continued austerity", including an additional £120m into the hands of schools as part of a £750m total to help tackle the attainment gap.

She added: "What's more, the Child Poverty Bill will see Scotland become the only part of the UK to propose statutory targets in a bid to reduce the number of children experiencing the damaging effects of poverty by 2030."

But Scottish Labour claimed that "SNP cuts are ripping support out of schools".

It called on the Scottish government to use all the powers available to it to ensure that pupils "can return to school with enough food in their bellies, the clothing and equipment they need to take part in lessons, and enough teachers and support staff."

And Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone said new devolved social security powers meant Scotland could boost the incomes of families that are struggling.

She said an example would be topping up child benefit by £5 a week, which she said would lift 30,000 children out of poverty.

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