The UK is one of the richest countries in the world but 30% of our children – 4.2 million – are trapped in poverty. That means the equivalent of 9 pupils in every class of 30 have been let down.

As educators, we know first-hand how poverty limits the life chances of children and significantly affects their educational experience and outcomes in school.

As coronavirus continues to impact families across the country and local lockdowns continue to bite, children face their toughest challenge yet.

We are calling on the Government to leave no child behind.

    The Government must act on 5 pressing issues to give children trapped in poverty the access to education they need

    1. Expand the Free School Meal (FSM) scheme to include every child (up to the age of 16) from a household in receipt of Universal Credit, or equivalent benefits.
    2. Eradicate holiday hunger by extending FSM provision of at least £15 per child per week during all school holidays.
    3. Reform all school uniform policies to ensure uniform options are affordable for families in the local community.
    4. Provide free household internet access for children and young people in households on Universal Credit.
    5. Establish a new, dedicated technology budget for all schools to combat the digital divide.

    What you can do

    Holiday hunger win for the No Child Left Behind campaign

    The NEU is hugely relieved by the Government’s announcement this weekend to invest £170 million via local councils to provide children and young people with regular, nutritious meals over the Christmas holidays. Education staff will be relieved that the Food and Activities Programme will be expanded to cover the Easter, summer and Christmas holidays throughout 2021 – this is the right thing to do and will provide nutrition and support to families who need it.

    Marcus Rashford’s campaign has amplified the voices of teachers, support staff and headteachers who have worked tirelessly throughout this pandemic to respond to holiday hunger.

    This announcement means more than one million children will return to school after their holidays better equipped to learn. However, our work does not stop here – 1.5 million children from families receiving Universal Credit are not entitled to Free School Meals, (FSM) but are likely to be facing challenges in accessing regular nutritious dinners.

    The No Child Left Behind campaign will continue to press the Government to expand FSMs to all pupils in families eligible for Universal Credit

    Marcus Rashford adds his support to our campaign

    Thousands of people have added their voices to our open letter to Gavin Williamson, demanding that FSM be extended over the school holidays and that children from families in receipt of Universal Credit be included in the scheme. Marcus Rashford MBE, who has spearheaded the call for an expansion in Free School Meal provision, has added his support to our campaign.

    The facts about child poverty

    Poverty has a significant impact on the educational experience and attainment of many children growing up in the UK. Moreover, research indicates there is a stronger relationship between parental social background and children’s test scores in England than in many other rich countries.

    small girl looking out of rainy window
    Child poverty - the facts

    Regional child poverty figures released by the End Child Poverty coalition in January 2018 show that there are now constituencies where more than half of children are growing up in poverty.

    Child poverty is on the rise

    The IFS predict that unless there is a significant shift in government policy, by 2022 5.2 million children will be trapped in poverty. Teachers and support staff see the increasing effects of poverty on the children they teach everyday at the chalk face.

    A snapshot poll of NEU members found that 62% of respondents have witnessed an increase in child poverty in their school or college over the last 5 years.

    More than a third of respondents told us they have bought food for pupils who cannot afford it (36%), school equipment like stationery (57%), and even items of school uniform (21%).

    Child poverty and its impact on learning

    Increased concern about worsening levels of child poverty and its impact on learning was highlighted in the NEU's 2019 State of Education survey. Members are deeply concerned by the effects of poverty and low income on the learning of their students, with an overwhelming 91% agreeing it to be a factor. Education professionals are reporting a significant increase in the visibility of child poverty in their school/college and provided us with many distressing examples from daily life.

    Some students have mentioned that they have not had any food for two days, some come without having breakfast and with no dinner money but are not on free school meals.

    When asked in a multiple-choice question to identify the impacts on learning that could be attributed to poverty, over three-quarters of respondents told us that their students demonstrated fatigue (78%), poor concentration (76%) or poor behaviour (75%). More than half of members said their students had experienced hunger (57%) or ill health (50%) as a result of poverty, and more than a third (35%) said students had been bullied because of it.

    NEU members witness the heart breaking ways that poverty and deprivation affect children’s learning, well-being and happiness. Watch and share our campaign films demanding action on child poverty.

    Our members have been in touch to tell us their stories of teaching in communities where poverty puts up barriers to learning, and how they’ve been working to break them down so no child is left behind.

    Latest news on child poverty

    • Press release press release abstract
      Government and Laptops

      The Government can't claim to protect disadvantaged students while they routinely let them down

    • Press release press release abstract
      Aid Budget

      258 million children were out of school before the Covid pandemic and millions more now stand to never return.

    Watch and share this video on social media

    Child poverty and its impact on pupils

    NEU members witness the heart breaking ways that poverty and deprivation affect children’s learning, well-being and happiness