Scotland

Teachers 'buying cash-strapped pupils food and clothes'

Pupils in classroom Image copyright PA
Image caption Teachers buy poverty-stricken pupils clothes

Teachers are using their own money to buy food and clothes for their poverty-stricken pupils.

One staff member even bought Christmas dinner and gifts for a family when a tearful mother got in touch.

The guidance teacher told the story in a letter to Holyrood's education committee, which is examining poverty and attainment.

The teacher urged MSPs to visit schools to witness the pressure that left the profession totally demoralised.

A Scottish government spokesman said it was providing Pupil Equity Funding directly to schools for head teachers to spend at their discretion to close the poverty-related attainment gap.

The letter said: "Poverty has increased and is impacting on the well-being of children on a daily basis.

"I've had pupils not attending school because they don't have shoes or uniform. I've bought jackets for children who don't have one.

"There is a distinct lack of services to help these children. They cannot attain if we cannot get them to engage in education."

'We are now social workers'

She said that every Christmas staff donated hundreds of gifts and food hampers to families.

"I've had a parent phoning me in tears as her benefits were stopped and she had no food or present for her boy at Christmas," she said.

"My depute head and I went to Tesco and bought the family a Christmas dinner and gifts for the family."

The letter added: "Social work services have been cut massively and increasing families turn to school for support, however we often cannot provide the support at home that the families need.

"Frontline services are being stretched to their limits. My workload is totally overwhelming. We are now social workers and mental health workers as well as teachers.

"I think the government should be recognising how much extra we do to support our pupils.

"Teachers feel grossly undervalued, underpaid and demoralised."

The committee is examining how poverty impacts on attainment and achievement at school.

In a separate submission, the NASUWT teachers' union told the MSPs that increasing numbers of children were given food, clothes and equipment by staff, at their own expense.

A survey it carried out of teachers in Scotland in 2016 showed 71% had seen pupils coming to school hungry, while 81% noticed youngsters attending classes without the correct equipment.

A further 79% were concerned about students lacking in energy and struggling to concentrate because of a poor diet.

Pupil Equity Fund

It comes after it was announced that the Scottish government's Pupil Equity Fund will award £120m to head teachers to work on closing the attainment gap this year.

But the head of English at one secondary school told MSPs: "The PEF money is a sticking plaster - it is merely a re-injection of the money that has been stripped out of Scottish education over the past decade, and even then it is not permanent.

"The stresses in our system and on our teachers will only be addressed by a massive funding effort."

Another teacher, who works at a large secondary school in an affluent area of the central belt, said: "PEF money is not equivalent to the funding that has been cut in schools and is a temporary measure.

"There may come a time when this money, which is not sufficient in the first instance to close a widening social gap, is no longer awarded."

A Scottish government spokesman said: "We are determined to help every child achieve their potential, no matter their background or circumstances.

"We are providing Pupil Equity Funding directly to schools for head teachers to spend at their discretion to close the poverty-related attainment gap. To help them decide how best to spend this money we have also provided guidance on the most effective interventions and approaches.

"Our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, published last week, set out ambitious actions to reduce child poverty."

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