Commenting on the passing of motion 26 at the National Education Union’s Annual Conference, which is being held virtually, Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
“The last ten years has seen a dramatic rise in child poverty across the UK – and without drastic, immediate action from Government the numbers will increase. Coronavirus has shone a light on the reality of child poverty in 2021 – and a clear majority of the voting public support Government action to end child poverty.
“Today at Conference we've heard how, throughout the pandemic, school staff stepped up, taking their nurturing and welfare role seriously. Schools worked tirelessly to provide healthy, nutritious food, and the technology and pastoral support many pupils rely on. Through the NEU partnership with the Daily Mirror, the Help a Child to Learn campaign shared out over £1.2 million worth of vital learning resources, like pens, pencils and paper. Learning materials went to 1,260 schools in the most deprived areas of the country showing that schools, parents and the public want to work together to tackle poverty.
“World-famous footballers cannot alone fix child poverty, but they have shown that the public wants to see poverty tackled. The latest research predicts that by the next General Election, 730,000 more children and young people will be caught in poverty’s grip. Nearly a fifth of school children are now eligible for Free School Meals (FSM), and many more from low-income families surviving on as little as £20.27-a-day miss out on this crucial support.
“There is a new ambitious mood, created by Covid, where parents have witnessed the reality of different learning environments at home. There is broad public support for extending FSM provision across the school holidays. Tackling hunger and malnutrition would immediately alleviate a huge amount of anxiety for families.
“We've got to have high ambitions for every child, and ensure wellbeing, nurture and learning go hand in hand in school but poor students need less poverty, urgently, not more schooling. The Government is pretending to voters that great teaching alone can lift students out of poverty, and it's simply not true. Powerful learning for every student must be our goal but we have got to face the fact that hunger, housing, and the anxiety created by poverty means poor children will be left behind their affluent peers. Let's close the gaps in income, food, housing and tech in order to close the gaps in opportunity and ambition.”