TEACHERS are personally providing food and funding school uniforms for children living in poverty, research has revealed.
A survey of Educational Institute of Scotland members found just over half (51 per cent) said they or colleagues had taken steps to help less-affluent pupils – while 49 per cent said their school had stepped in.
Responses ranged from providing food for children who are coming to school hungry, personally buying items of clothing to give to those who need them, organising food bank donations and providing pupils with spending money for school trips and fairs.
The measures are against a backdrop of six in ten of respondents saying they had seen an increase in the number of children attending their schools experiencing poverty. Just over half of teachers reported a rise in pupils coming to school with little or no food, snacks or money while 72 per cent noted an increase in those without basic stationery, school-bags and PE equipment.
A total of 77 per cent observed increased signs of poverty-related mental ill-health while 56 per cent saw a rise in physical symptoms such as headaches, lethargy and unhealthy pallor. Andrea Bradley, EIS assistant secretary for education and equality, said: “The results clearly underline low-income poverty significantly blights the day-to-day educational experiences of the 260,000 children and young people 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 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.”
Green MSP for Lothians Alison Johnstone said: “It’s appalling so many children arrive in school underfed, and without basic equipment. With new devolved social security powers, Scotland can boost the incomes of families struggling, for example by topping up Child Benefit by £5 a week which would lift 30,000 children out of poverty.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman highlighted the “devastating impact of the UK Government’s policy of continued austerity”.
She said: “It is deeply worrying the impact of these polices is being increasingly seen by teachers. Despite cuts to our budget, we are mitigating the effect of welfare cuts wherever we can.”