Poverty 'affecting student chances'

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The Independent Online

Growing numbers of pupils are coming to school tired and hungry as a result of increased poverty , a teachers’ survey reveals today.

In one case, a child had not eaten for three days because their mother could not afford to buy any more food until pay day.

Staff report that pupils have to be helped from the classroom by first aiders because they feel weak from undernourishment.

In adiition, fewer parents are finding that they are able to afford the extras to send their children on school trips.

The survey, carried out by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, revealed that four out of five staff said they had students who were suffering from the effectys of living in poverty.

One in four felt the numbers hadf increased as a result of the recession.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL, said: “It is appalling that in 2011 so many children in ther UK are severely disadvantaged by their circumstances and fail to achieve their potential.”

The survey of more than 500 teachers uncovered harrowing tales of the impact of poverty on children.

“We have children who miss classes because they cannot afford the bus fare or cost of other transport to get to college,” said Anne Pegum, a further education xcollege teacher from Hertfordshire.

“We have students who miss out on meals because they do not have money to pay for them and in some cases then feel unwell and have to be helped by our first aiders.”

A teacher working with sixth-formers in Nottingham added she had astudent who had not eaten for three days “as their mother had no money until pay day”.

The survey showed that the most obvious effects of poverty were children coming to school tired (cited by 80.2 per cent of respondents) and arriving hungry (73.1 per cent).

In addition, 67 per cent were arriving without the proper uniform or wearing worn-out clothes.

Craig Macartney, a secondary school teacher from Suffolk, added: “More children from middle to lower income families are not going on school trips and these families find it difficult to meet the basic cost of living.

“A family with two or three teenage children who have one earner who loses hours or their job will struggle to reach the minmum income to pay for the basics.

“The number of young people with mental health problems has also been on the increase in the last three years.

A teaching assistant in a West Midlands school added: “Today I have had to contact parents because a child has infected toes due to feet being squashed into shoes way too small.”

Jane Hill, a further education lecturer in Worcester, added: “There is a change in attitude of lower sixth students towards higher education.

“Many feel it is beyong their economic reach now and are somwhat disaffected in terms of their attitude towards study and A-levels.”

The growing levels of poverty coincide wit the Government;’s decision to scrap education maintenance allowances of up to £30 a week to encourage youngsters to stay on at school or college after the age of 16.

“What message does this Government think it is sending young people when it is cutting funding for Sure Start centres (for the under-fives) , cutting the educational maintenance allowance and making it harder for local authorities to provide health andf social services.

“The Government should forget empty rhetoric about social mobility and concentrate on tackling the causes of deprivation and barriers to attaonment that lock so many young people into a cycle of poverty.”