Commenting on Investigating the changing landscape of pupil disadvantage, a report by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: 

"We know the impact that coronavirus has had on families living on the brink. The NFER report shows that Covid-19 has precipitated a sharp increase in the number of families in poverty, with the number of free-school-meals-eligible pupils increasing by almost 300,000 between January 2020 and 2021. 

"Thousands more pupils from families on low incomes are slipping through the cracks and are not receiving the financial support to which they are entitled. A staggering one million children in poverty across the UK remain ineligible for free school meals, according to Child Poverty Action Group. No child should come to school too hungry to learn. 

"We are concerned that the help that is now offered to families has been cut down to completely inadequate levels and more and more families are being pushed into poverty. The effects of poverty in childhood can last a lifetime and impact on education in multiple ways. 

"The Government must act urgently to create the conditions in which all children can thrive and learn and ensure that no child is held back as a result of poverty."