Pupils 'arriving at school hungry'
Almost nine in 10 teachers have seen a rise in the number of children turning up for school hungry, a new survey has found.
The poll of nearly 2,000 working teachers by the Daily Mirror found more than 85% had reported an increase in pupils arriving hungry at school in the last two years.
Some teachers revealed they had brought food from home to feed struggling students, while children have been found stealing from the dining hall and from their friends' plates to fill their empty stomachs, according to the newspaper's study, in conjunction with the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and Child Poverty Action Group.
Across more than 40 pages of anecdote, staff reported that vulnerable students were arriving for school in dirty uniforms or wearing clothes so threadbare they were unsuitable for colder weather, the Mirror said.
The teachers surveyed had also seen an increase in children unable to concentrate in class, with some youngsters finding it difficult to stay awake in lessons, the paper said.
Nearly all said there has been a steady rise in parents being unable to afford to send their children on school trips, according to the red-top.
Some 3.5 million British children are classified as living in poverty, the Mirror said.
The staff who took the survey were from schools across the country, including large cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and Sunderland and more rural areas in Hampshire, Hertfordshire and Norfolk.
Christine Blower, NUT General Secretary, told the Mirror: "The Government can and should do far more to reduce child poverty and youth unemployment. The problems that stem from poor housing, joblessness and poverty in all its forms have a debilitating effect on many pupils' learning.
"Tired, hungry children simply can't learn effectively and parents in one of the richest countries in the world shouldn't have to rely on food banks."
The survey has been published ahead of Education Secretary Michael Gove's speech to the Tory party conference in Manchester today.
A Department for Education spokesman said: " Around 1.3 million children receive a free, nutritious meal at school. We are extending this to all five to seven-year-olds from next September.
"The recent school food plan highlighted the Government's commitment to healthy school food. We are allocating more than £3 million to help schools establish more breakfast clubs."
Prime Minister David Cameron told ITV's Daybreak: "It's really important that we make sure there is good nutritious school food and one of the things we are doing of course is to make sure that for the first three years of school... that you have school meals for all.
"That is a really good way to make sure that children are getting a good start and obviously we help, in the latter years, those children whose parents are not well off to have free school meals."