Poverty limits the life chances of children and significantly affects their educational experience and outcomes in school. Poverty also reinforces social exclusion throughout the school system, as children growing up in low income families often face barriers their peers never experience.

Teachers and support staff are committed to the principle that education can make an enormous difference to children’s lives, but schools alone cannot address society-wide inequity and the effects of poverty on educational achievement. It is the responsibility of Government to create the conditions in which all children can thrive and learn.

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Child poverty campaign stories

Teachers say children are starving in class. It is the responsibility of the government to create conditions in which all children can thrive and learn.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“Poverty has a serious impact on the educational outcomes and life chances of children, harming their ability to learn and undermining schools’ efforts to support them. Teachers, support staff and school leaders working at the chalk face have seen a shocking increase in the number of pupils facing almost insurmountable challenges in accessing their education as a result of poverty.

When a child comes to school hungry, without appropriate uniform like decent shoes or a warm coat, or lacking equipment like pens and books they are placed at a significant disadvantage to their wealthier peers. These barriers prevent children from disadvantaged backgrounds fulfilling their potential in school, and can have a serious impact on their confidence and self-worth.

The National Education Union is proud to support the Daily Mirror’s Give Me Five campaign, which calls on the Prime Minister to increase child benefit by £5 per child – this action would lift 200,000 children out of poverty and enable them to come to school feeling secure and ready to learn. Every child deserves the chance to thrive in the classroom – we must fight to ensure that no pupil is held back by poverty.” 

Read the full article in the Daily Mirror

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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

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

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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

teachers with children

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.

News on child poverty

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    School Uniform Bill is due to be debated in Parliament on 13 March. Read Mike Amesbury MP's blog on the Bill which is aimed at lowering the cost of school uniforms.

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    In a snapshot poll of National Education Union members, the growth of child poverty and its visibility within schools and colleges is laid bare.

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    Reacting to the debate on "Tackling Poverty" in the Assembly yesterday, David Evans, Wales secretary NEU Cymru said: "NEU Cymru members are clear - tackling poverty is a critical issue for education professionals in Wales, and key to improving schools and colleges for learners"

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    Child poverty harms children’s educational opportunities

    Growing child poverty is affecting children’s learning, say NEU education professionals, and schools and education staff are increasingly providing the services and essentials of daily life to stop families falling through the cracks

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    School Holiday Poverty

    Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, has commented on the Government’s school holiday programme for disadvantaged children.