Head Teachers Hold National Conference In Telford

4 May 2019, 11:22 | Updated: 4 May 2019, 11:26

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The NAHT Union claim children cant learn as they are going to bed cold and hungry.

Children are going to sleep feeling cold and with rumbling stomachs, leaving them struggling to learn and enjoy school, a union has said.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said concern was growing among school leaders that the very youngest are very aware of their families' financial problems.

Research by the union ahead of its annual conference in Telford on Friday found three quarters of school leaders reported seeing an increase or significant increase in the number of parents asking schools for financial support, or support with essentials, in the last five years.

Judy Shaw, the new NAHT national president, said: "It is the 21st century and our children deserve better.

"In the wee small hours I worry about our families and the difficult circumstances they face every day.

"Many children are only too aware of their family's insecurities and finances.

"Could you concentrate on learning if your belly was rumbling, you hadn't had restful sleep and you were cold? Of course, you couldn't.

"I call upon our Government to lift their eyes from their Brexit dossiers, look around them, and offer recognition, understanding, compassion and immediate support.

"Don't leave it to schools to pick up the pieces alone."

Responses from 400 members indicate 81% reported seeing an increase or significant increase in the number of children going to school hungry in the last five years.

One school leader from Derbyshire said: "Children are just not ready to learn. They are embarrassed and ashamed."

Another commented: "I have observed children emotionally battered and unable to learn, pupils too hungry to think and deprived of sleep due to a lack of heating, bedding and clothing.

"I've seen parents weep because they can't afford uniform or pay the dinner bill.

"I've seen a pupil eat a biscuit for breakfast and have a mouldy piece of bread as their only lunch in their box and have had parents break down when confronted as they haven't eaten all day either."

Other comments mentioned the insecurity of the family income, the threat of eviction, domestic violence and increased foodbank use.

Overwhelmingly, school leaders report that these problems are more common than five years ago.

A Government spokeswoman said: "Tackling disadvantage will always be a priority for this Government, and we're taking action to make sure teachers don't have to step in to tackle the issues highlighted by this survey.

"The best route out of poverty is work, and under this Government we have seen record levels of employment.

"There are now around 3.5m more people in work compared with 2010 - with over one million fewer workless households - but we recognise that some families need more support.

"That's why we provide free school meals to more than one million of the country's most disadvantaged children and continue to spend over £95 billion a year on welfare to ensure every child has the best start in life."