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Children 'in Victorian conditions'

Children are turning up to school sick because their parents cannot afford to take time off to care for them, teachers have claimed.

School staff are also still seeing youngsters arriving for lessons hungry, tired and wearing inappropriate clothes due to a continuing squeeze on family finances, according to the NASUWT teaching union.

It warned that the lives of many children are young people are being "blighted and degraded by poverty and homelessness".

In some cases, teachers reported being aware of pupils living in "Victorian conditions", of youngsters coming to school with no socks or coat and of more families depending on food banks.

A survey commissioned by the NASUWT found that almost seven in 10 (69%) of teachers said they have seen pupils coming to school hungry, while eight in 10 (80%) have witnessed youngsters turning up in clothes that are inappropriate for the weather and similar proportions reported children arriving in unwashed or damaged and frayed clothing.

In addition, over three in four (78%) said they have seen pupils without appropriate footwear and more than half (55%) have seen youngsters who are unable to afford uniform.

One of the almost 2,500 teachers surveyed said they had seen: "Pupils who come into school unwell. Often their parents cannot afford to take a day off work, and therefore send their children to school when they ought to be at home."

And another reported: "Pupils who need medical attention, but parents are not taking them/unable to take them to the GP, optician and/or dentist."

The findings give an indication of the impact of difficult financial circumstances on children, with around a third (32%) of those polled saying they have seen pupils who have arrived or left school half way through a term because they were forced to leave their homes, the same proportion reported teaching children who were living in temporary accommodation and just over a fifth (22%) said they knew of youngsters who had lost their homes due to money pressures.

Asked to share observations of the effects of financial hardship, one teacher said: "Children in 2015 should not be hungry and coming to school with no socks on and no coats - some children are living in Victorian conditions - in the inner cities."

Another said: "We are in a leafy rural area and still have children whose families depend on food banks."

Many teachers said they had noticed that financial pressures at home had an impact on youngsters in the classroom, saying that pupils in these circumstances were less able to concentrate, more likely to be absent or turn up late, show behaviour problems or lack confidence.

Almost one in five (19%) said they have lent or given pupils money, 24% have given food and 62% have lent out or given youngsters equipment. Others said they have seen colleagues, or their school, offer these items.

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: "These are truly shocking statistics that show the lives of children and young people are being blighted and degraded by poverty and homelessness."

She added: "Poverty and homelessness take a physical and emotional toll on children. They often cannot concentrate when they are in school because they are tired and hungry, have no space to do homework and have to travel long distances to get to school from temporary accommodation. They are likely to suffer more ill health and absenteeism."

:: The poll questioned 2,452 teachers.

A Conservative Party spokesman said: " Under the Conservatives, the number of children living in poverty has fallen by 300,000. And because of the Pupil Premium, the poorest pupils are getting an extra £2.5 billion targeted at their education each year, which is already closing the attainment gap with their peers.

"Because of our policies, there are more jobs than ever before, wages are rising faster than prices and with the lowest inflation on record, family budgets are starting to go further. The NASUWT should recognise how the Conservatives have rescued the economy, and through that, delivering the jobs that secure a better future for families."

The NASUWT has also raised concerns that schools are using CCTV cameras to spy on teachers.

A poll conducted by the union found that nearly half (49%) said they have cameras in their schools that have been used to form negative judgements about teachers' performance.

Around 1% said that CCTV helps with teaching and learning and supports their professional development.


From Belfast Telegraph