‘Pupil poverty’ pressure on school cash

Purse Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Heads say schools are having to act like an “emergency service” for impoverished families

Schools in England are having to “pick up the pieces” for families in poverty, including giving food and clothes to children, head teachers warn.

But, they say, that is unsustainable when schools are facing “funding cuts”.

Heads will raise their concerns at the Association of School and College Leaders’ (ASCL) annual conference.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds will tell the conference he is setting up an expert advisory group to help teachers with “the pressures of the job”.

The advisory group, including the mental health charity Mind and teachers’ representatives, will look at ways to improve wellbeing among teachers and to tackle stress.

Providing shoes as well as lessons

But the head teachers’ conference in Birmingham will hear complaints that pressure in school is being exacerbated by inadequate levels of funding.

Many schools face “severe cuts”, says ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton, but they are still expected to be an “unofficial fourth emergency service for poor and vulnerable children”.

Image copyright PA Image caption Head teachers have been protesting against budget shortages in schools

“A decade of austerity has wreaked havoc with the social fabric of the nation and schools have been left to pick up the pieces,” says Mr Barton.

He accuses politicians of having a “fixation with Brexit” while failing to address the struggles of impoverished families and the lack of investment in schools.

Sarah Bone, head teacher of Headlands School, in Bridlington, says she sees “too many children with no heating in the home, no food in the cupboards, washing themselves with cold water, walking to school with holes in their shoes and trousers that are ill fitted”.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Heads say funding problems for schools add to the pressure on teachers

Edward Conway, head of St Michael’s Catholic High School in Watford, says: “Pupil poverty has increased significantly over the past eight years, with us providing food, clothing, equipment and securing funds from charitable organisations to provide essential items such as beds and fridges.”

Widening gap

The head teachers’ union has canvassed the views of school leaders, whose comments include: “When schools have to buy shoes for children to wear to school on a regular basis, we must have a problem.”

Another head said: “In 24 years of education, I have not seen the extent of poverty like this.

“Children are coming to school hungry,

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