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.

Teachers are committed to the principle that education can make an enormous difference to children’s lives, but schools and teachers 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.

The academic literature is very clear: differences in the social background of pupils are the primary factors causing inequality in educational outcomes.

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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

Tell us your stories

Surveys and statistics indicate the dry facts behind child poverty in the UK. Members' stories of how they have had to alleviate pupils' poverty in their schools can give those figures a face. Please tell us yours.

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.

Holiday hunger

A 2018 NEU survey of secondary school teachers showed increasing concern that young people are not getting enough food to eat over the summer holidays, with more than half (59%) of members polled confirmed that children in their school experienced holiday hunger and 77% of respondents saying that in the last three years the situation in their school had either got worse (51%) or stayed the same (26%). 

I see children come back to school in September looking visibly less well nourished.

Teachers said they thought holiday hunger is affecting more children now than 3 years ago and there was a strong concern that local initiatives designed to tackle it – including food banks – are not equipped to meet demand.

News on child poverty