Report lifts lid on hunger in schools

Devonshire Primary headteacher Neil Hodgkins with Billy King and Rebecca Simpson.
Devonshire Primary headteacher Neil Hodgkins with Billy King and Rebecca Simpson.
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A HARD-hitting report by The Children’s Society has revealed nearly half of UK teachers are seeing hungry children going into schools.

The Food for Thought survey comes as Blackpool Council prepares to provide free breakfasts for all resort pupils from January.

Ninety eight per cent of teachers who took part in the national survey believe all children in poverty should receive a free school meal, and two thirds said staff provided pupils with food or money if they went to school hungry.

Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said the new research underlined why Blackpool was launching its scheme.

He added: “This report completely supports the reasons behind our free school breakfast pilot.

“Here in Blackpool we are seeing children coming to school hungry every day which undoubtedly reduces their ability to learn.

“As of January, 12,000 primary school pupils will receive free breakfast every day. There will be no discrimination between those families that can afford it and those that cannot.

“Every pupil will be able to start their school day fed and ready to learn.

“It is really important as many parents as possible take up this new service – it will save them cash every week that they can spend elsewhere in the local economy, and makes a huge collective effort to get our kids in school bright and early, and ready to learn.

“Our initial pilot covers free breakfasts and milk in primary schools but we would like to see this eventually extended to include secondary schools and universal free lunches.

“We need to create a generation of children who understand the importance of nutrition, who will then go on to provide that nutrition to their children.

“I welcome the Children’s Society report and their desire to help the hard working, low income families who struggle on a daily basis to make ends meet but whose children are not entitled to free school meals.”

Around £700,000, including NHS funding, has been set aside to fund the three-month pilot scheme.

Extending it will cost around £2m with the council exploring external funding options including the possibility of sponsorship.

The Food for Thought survey also found 72 per cent of teachers reported seeing children arrive at school with no lunch and no means to pay for one.

Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said: “This report sets out shocking evidence of just how much hardship teachers up and down the country are witnessing in classrooms day in, day out.

“Something is going badly wrong when teachers themselves are having to feed children.

“Every child in poverty should be given a free school meal.”

President of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) Steve Iredale said: “The project in Blackpool will cost a lot of money but if it works it will have a huge impact, no doubt about it.

“This is an issue on which central government and local government have got to sit down and act and we would be delighted to work with them. For too long it’s something we have reflected on, but now it’s time to do something about it.”

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