A teachers’ union is warning that schools are increasingly being overwhelmed by funding cuts and growing levels of poverty, with many pupils going hungry and turning up to school in England badly clothed.

The National Education Union says that poverty levels are growing and are now having a ‘devastating’ effect on children.

The union’s survey paints a picture of harsh poverty with teachers saying that poor housing, a lack of food and unsuitable clothing are now overwhelming their pupils.

The union’s joint general secretary, Mary Bousted, said: “The government is out of touch with what it means to live without money for basics such as clothing, shoes and food.

“It has failed to recognise the human cost for the cuts to schools and children’s services and to social security.”

Schools are being hit by funding cuts

The union says that schools are being hit by funding cuts implemented by the government and three out of 10 secondary schools have budget deficits of around £500,000.

The union questioned more than 1,000 teachers in England and found:

  • Nearly half of teachers say more children are going hungry than there were three years ago. Just 2% say the situation has improved.
  • Two in three teachers say that more families are unable to afford winter shoes and clothes, compared with the situation three years ago.
  • Teachers are reporting that schools are providing pupils with coats in the cold weather, while others say that pupils attend school with holes in their shoes and clothes.

Teachers that responded to the survey

The teachers that responded to the survey also highlight that there are more housing issues today with poor quality, overcrowded homes that are having an impact on the education of pupils.

The results for poverty on the education of children include:

  • Behavioural issues, 85%
  • Increased absences from school, 83%
  • A lack of concentration, 81%
  • Being late for school, 79%
  • Children’s health being impacted, 59%.

Just 3% of teachers say they’ve seen non-poverty consequences.

Comments collected by researchers

Among the comments collected by researchers is one teacher being asked regularly by pupils if she can glue the souls back onto their shoes.

While another teacher said that families are receiving food packages from schools if they are struggling along with Christmas presents and clothing. They are also planning to offer a breakfast for every child who needs one in their school.

One school also highlighted that its school attendance dropped to 86% after a day of heavy rain because many pupils had damaged shoes and had no spare ones to wear.

A government spokesman said that there are 300,000 fewer children living in absolute poverty since 2010, with employment in the UK now at a record high.

The spokesman added: “We are committed to ensuring that every child will get the very best chance.

“We spend £90 billion a year to support those in need, and we have introduced financial support for disadvantaged families in the school holidays.”