ASCL comment on NFER report on more pupils showing up to class hungry

Pepe Di’Iasio, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, responds to a report from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), which suggests a growing number of primary school pupils are showing up to class hungry.
“It’s deeply troubling that significant numbers of young children are arriving at school without the basic necessities anybody would require to be in a fit state to learn. The fact that so many teachers are spending their own money on supporting pupils’ pastoral needs is particularly revealing. It perfectly encapsulates an education workforce going above and beyond despite the increasing number of societal problems they are being forced to deal with, seemingly on their own.

“We fully support the recommendations made in this report. ASCL and many other organisations have long been calling for the eligibility criteria for free school meals to be widened, and it’s baffling as to why this simple step has not already been taken. There also needs to be targeted support for schools that reflects the varying levels of disadvantage in different communities. We would also like to see the introduction of a mechanism whereby funding for children eligible for free school meals is automatically provided to schools, rather than the current convoluted process which puts many parents off accessing this support.  

“Above all, whoever forms the next government simply must get a grip on the scourge of child poverty. Politicians cannot just sit back and rely on the goodwill and finances of teachers and school leaders to stop children from going hungry.”