Post written Monday 5 June 2017, three days before the general election.
Things are hard in schools at the moment. Things are hard for teachers, and they’re even harder for many children.
Many of the teachers I work with tell me how they spend their own money on supplies for school.
In fact, nearly two-thirds of teachers spend over £120 a year on supplies for school; partly because school budgets don’t always run to ink for printers or coloured paper for projects, and partly because 73% of children in both primary and secondary school are coming to school without the basic equipment they need for lessons (1) . Maybe, this lack of preparedness is a result of the fact that nearly 30% of children in the UK live in poverty.
As well as teachers buying pens, paper and glue sticks, what I am now seeing is teachers buying food for their pupils; teachers are buying fruit and cereal bars to put in ‘help yourself’ boxes on their desks – and the boxes are regularly emptied by hungry pupils. At one school, the staff regularly bring food in so children from disadvantaged families can collect a small ‘bagful’ to take home– because with no income from employment and no benefits, that’s the only way they can afford to eat.
A recent Guardian article (2) tells of other indicators of child poverty that teachers see; surely buying sanitary towels for pupils shouldn’t be necessary? Indeed, in a caring state where we strive for equity and social justice, it wouldn't be necessary. But under our current right-wing government, and with proposed Tory policies predicted to drive up child poverty and make disadvantaged families even worse off over the next three years (3) , the situation is unlikely to improve. We must move, and move fast, towards a socially responsive agenda and a reversal of short-sighted policies to ensure our children aren’t hungry in school, that girls can afford basic sanitary towels so as not to avoid school , and that young people can concentrate on learning, not on their empty bellies.
I was a psychology and social sciences teacher for many years and now I am in the throes of a teaching and research career in HE. I care passionately about education. This blog will show you why and how.