AS COST OF LIVING SOARS TEACHERS REPORT GROWING NUMBERS OF HUNGRY, COLD AND TIRED PUPILS WHO ARE LESS ABLE TO CONCENTRATE AT SCHOOL

  • The majority (52%) of Senior Leaders in state schools say the number of pupils unable to afford lunch who aren’t eligible for free school meals has increased this term, rising to 59% of Senior Leaders in the most deprived schools
  • State school teachers are seeing growing numbers of children facing serious issues linked to the cost of living, including coming to school hungry (38% of teachers) and without warm clothing (54%)
  • 38% of state school teachers say at least a third of their pupils are facing financial pressures that are affecting their ability to succeed in school, rising to 72% of teachers in the most deprived schools

Clear signs that the cost of living crisis is increasingly affecting young people’s education are laid out today in new research published by the Sutton Trust. A survey of school teachers across England, carried out by Teacher Tapp, reveals that teachers are seeing growing numbers of pupils facing serious issues linked to living costs this autumn term.

Despite calls to widen access to Free School Meals from the 22.5% of pupils currently eligible, the government declined to do so in the November budget. However, the research reveals that over half (52%) of Senior Leaders in state schools say that during the autumn term, the number of children in their school unable to afford lunch who weren’t eligible for free school meals increased. Leaders working in the most deprived schools, with the highest proportions of existing pupils eligible for Free School Meals, were more likely to say there were more pupils unable to afford lunch, at 59%, compared to 44% of those in the least deprived schools. This indicates that pupils falling just outside of Free School Meals eligibility are increasingly going hungry.

In state schools, three quarters (74%) of teachers say they have seen an increase in pupils unable to concentrate or tired in class, almost seven in ten (67%) have students with behaviour issues, and over half (54%) have seen an increase in those coming to school without adequate winter clothing like a coat. 38% of teachers said growing numbers of children are coming to school hungry, with 17% saying there was an increase in families asking to be referred to foodbanks.

The survey shows marked differences between the experiences of teachers in the most deprived schools and those in the most affluent. The scale of difference was particularly high for the most concerning problems – teachers seeing increasing numbers of children coming to school hungry (56% in the most deprived schools vs 22% in the least), families asking to be referred to a foodbank (27% vs 8%) and an increase in those without adequate winter clothing (65% vs 40%).

When asked about the proportion of pupils facing financial pressures that were affecting their ability to succeed in school, 38% of state school teachers said this is the case for at least a third of their class. This rises to 72% in the most deprived schools. There were significant differences by region, with around 43% of all teachers in the North West, Yorkshire and the North East saying more than a third of their pupils are struggling, compared to 27% of teachers from the South East.

Over two-thirds of teachers believe the cost of living crisis will increase the attainment gap between the less well-off and the most well-off pupils in their school, with 18% of teachers believing this increase will be substantial. Just 9% of teachers believe that the crisis won’t have any impact on the attainment gap.

Sir Peter Lampl, Founder and Chairman of the Sutton Trust and Chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, said:

“It’s a scandal that in one of the world’s richest countries growing numbers of children are going without basics such as food and warm clothing. More and more pupils in England’s most deprived schools are coming to school hungry and without warm clothing such as a coat. It’s a fact that children who arrive at school hungry have difficulty learning. Three quarters (74%) of state school teachers say they have seen an increase in pupils unable to concentrate or tired in class. Almost seven in ten (67%) have students with behaviour issues.

“Teachers in the most deprived schools report that increasing numbers of children who are not eligible for Free School Meals are unable to afford lunch. Over two-thirds of teachers believe the cost of living crisis will increase the attainment gap between the less well-off and the most well-off pupils in their school.

“The facts are stark and shaming. Without radical intervention and increased provision for those who need it most, the cost of living crisis will produce a decline in social mobility, gravely endangering the long-cherished project of levelling up.”

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • The Sutton Trustwas founded by Sir Peter Lampl in 1997 to improve social mobility in Britain. The Trust has influenced government policy on more than 30 occasions; its programmes have to date given 50,000 young people the opportunity to change their lives; and it has published over 250 pieces of agenda-setting research.
  • Teacher Tapp surveyed over 6,200 teachers in schools across England. Survey responses are weighted to represent the national teaching population, according to school funding and phase, along with teacher age, gender and level of seniority.

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