Children are lashing out at pupils and staff because they are hungry, teachers say

Pupils turning up to school with hunger ‘more common’ amid poverty, headteachers’ union says

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Tuesday 24 September 2019 17:56 BST
Pupils become distracted, moody and disruptive in lessons because of hunger, teachers say
Pupils become distracted, moody and disruptive in lessons because of hunger, teachers say (iStock)

Children are lashing out in the classroom because they are hungry, teachers have said.

Nearly two in five teachers have seen a child become violent towards other pupils or staff and they put it down to a lack of food, according to a survey.

Pupils become distracted, moody and disruptive in lessons because of hunger, teachers say.

The survey finds that more than a quarter (27 per cent) have seen pupils lash out at other children – including kicking and scratching – and they say it was due to the pupil not eating breakfast.

A further 12 per cent said a child has been violent towards them for the same reason, according to the Opinium survey of 1,000 primary and secondary school teachers.

Two in five teachers surveyed said those who haven’t eaten in the morning often isolate themselves.

More than four in five (84 per cent) teachers said they have suspected a child has come to school hungry, while more than a third (36 per cent) said they have taken in food for pupils.

The survey, commissioned by Kellogg’s, found that nearly one in 10 teachers say their school has been contacted by parents concerned their child is being disrupted by hungry pupils.

Kate Prince, corporate social responsibility manager for Kellogg’s UK and Ireland, said: “We are not blaming these children for their behaviour as a result of hunger – no child should be going without breakfast.

“Our latest findings show too many children are still going to school without the vital fuel that they need to help them learn.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “Schools have seen an increase in the extent of pupil poverty in recent years, and the problem of children turning up to school hungry is more common than the public might realise.

“A great deal of work goes on in schools to support pupils who suffer from high levels of disadvantage and this includes providing them with food.

“But it is a situation which is simply not acceptable in one of the world’s wealthiest countries and the government must do more to provide the support that is so clearly needed by many families.”

Rosamund McNeil, assistant general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said: “Government has failed to recognise the human costs of its cuts to schools, children services and the welfare system.

“Government must stop hiding from the facts – children can’t escape the poverty trap without an urgent change to national policies.”

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A Department for Education spokesperson said, “Good nutrition is vital to a child’s wellbeing and behaviour – that’s why we’ve expanded our breakfast club programme across 1,700 schools and now provide free school meals for 1.3 million of the country’s most disadvantaged children.

“Schools should be safe and disciplined environments for both pupils and teachers. We recently announced a £10m investment to establish behaviour hubs so that schools with a track record of effectively managing pupils’ behaviour can share what works with schools that need it.”

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