This week I have been reading a report which highlights the difficulties faced by as many as half of the families within the U.K currently.
Although on paper many school’s see the number of children accessing a free school meal decrease, the sad reality is that more and more families are finding themselves unable to access the benefits they once claimed due to changes within the benefits system and living in poverty as a result.
Within schools this is often see in children skipping meals, not having money for school trips, lacking basic equipment or having badly fitting or poor quality school uniform/shoes.
The NEU/Child Poverty Action Group reports highlights that School staff are personally providing vital support for their pupils and students from low income families. On at least a termly basis, over half of respondents (53%) say they personally provide school equipment such as books and stationery; over a third say they provide food; more than a fifth are supplying PE or sports kit; 14% donate toys and play things; 10% provide sanitary protection; 10% provide other hygiene products; and 8% help with travel costs.
The report also highlights that those children from poorer backgrounds are more likely to suffer from illness as a result of poor diet and poorer living standards and can be absent from school as a result of bullying by peers. There is also a significant amount of absence highlighted through period poverty.
Absence from school can be a significant sign that a family needs further support. This support could take the form of supporting a family to access free school meals or having a facility to provide some free school uniform via a “help yourself rail”. It could be through closer links with food banks and benefits advisors in your local area or accessing support via Early Help Hubs within the Local Authority.
Within school support can be implemented through provision of free sanitary products (a number of companies offer free puberty kits); provision of pens/pencils within classroom’s so there is no requirement to bring your own and use of pupil premium funding to cover costs of school trips for longer income children or to provide a free breakfast club which students can access.