By Sean Coughlan –
Head teachers are warning that schools are having to act like “mini-welfare states” in having to provide food, spare uniform and even to wash clothes and provide showers for some pupils.
The National Association of Head Teachers says such welfare support is costing £43.5m from school budgets.
Heads’ leader Russell Hobby said it was a “hidden national scandal”.
A Conservative spokesman said “the number of children living in poverty has fallen by 300,000”.
The warning from members of the NAHT, as they gather for their annual conference in Liverpool, is that schools are having to step in with welfare support for pupils, either because of poverty or dysfunctional families.
The union’s report, based on responses from more than 2,000 head teachers in England, found examples of schools supplying food, clothes, PE kit, headlice treatment, transport costs and equipment for lessons.
There were schools which now had facilities for washing clothes and providing showers for pupils.
This was not a representative survey, but NAHT leader Mr Hobby said the responses from so many schools revealed the rising pressure on heads to deliver many different kinds of non-educational support.
“Schools have held families together and kept children out of the criminal justice system,” he said.
Mr Hobby warned that the financial cost of this extra support was not recognised, with estimates that it cost schools an average of £2,000 to £3,000 per year.
Individual heads and teachers were also bringing in their own food for pupils, but without any this cost being recorded.
Mr Hobby said that head teachers wanted “a level of honesty around what we expect from schools”.
“Schools are starting to provide mini-welfare states to fill in the gaps that are emerging,” Mr Hobby said.
“Regardless of the promise to protect education spending in the next parliament, cuts to other public services will come home to roost at the school gates.”
A Conservative party spokesman said that their education budget plans would provide more spending on schools than Labour’s proposals and defended their record in government.
“Under the Conservatives, the number of children living in poverty has fallen by 300,000. By introducing the pupil premium, we are specifically targeting an extra £2.5bn toward the education of the most disadvantaged every year, which is helping close the attainment gap with their peers.”
But Labour’s Tristram Hunt said: “David Cameron’s plan for extreme cuts – double the cuts next year than this – plus his refusal to match Labour’s plan to protect the entire education budget in real terms, means a perfect storm is brewing for children and young people.
“Labour has a better plan – protecting early years education, school spending and post-16 education in real terms.”
Schools feeding and clothing pupils, say heads
Posted in Global Education News