Commenting on research by University College London: Covid crisis reveals how schools are ‘propping up a failing welfare state’, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: 

“This research demonstrates the determination of schools to deal with the effects of poverty in their classrooms. But schools cannot act alone and urgent action to tackle the scourge of child poverty is needed from the Government.

'We know that even before coronavirus, 4.3 million children and young people were growing up trapped in poverty and this is only going to be made worse as the pandemic continues to take its toll. Covid-19 has exposed the endemic levels of poverty and inequality in the UK.

'Through the NEU’s own research, we know the shocking levels of poverty that education staff are witnessing daily. Members spoke of families turning to schools or colleges for extra support during lockdown for the provision of basic learning resources such as pens, paper and books. Schools having to set up food banks and teachers reporting they personally provide food and snacks to their pupils to ensure they have eaten during the school day have become part of everyday life in many schools.  It is completely unacceptable that children are going hungry or don’t have basic supplies to access education.

'Adding to this, millions of families have now had a £20-a-week cut to their Universal Credit. The impact that this cut will have on rising rates of child poverty is a concern to staff in education and those who lead schools. Independent analysis from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that it risks plunging 500,000 people into poverty, including 200,000 children. The Chancellor needs to do the right thing and reinstate the £20 to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit at the Autumn Budget and ensure families on legacy benefits are included.

'It is vital that the Government takes urgent action 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.”