Teachers 'Giving Food Handouts To Poor Pupils'

Nick Pisa, Sky News Reporter
Teachers 'Giving Food Handouts To Poor Pupils'

Teachers are helping hungry schoolchildren with food handouts and money to buy lunch, a survey has revealed.

Thousands of pupils on the poverty line are missing out on breakfast and even lunch because they cannot afford to eat, ultimately affecting their concentration and performance in class.

According to the study by The Children's Society, more than half of the UK's teachers are seeing hungry pupils at school.

Almost three in four of those questioned said they have seen youngsters coming into school with no lunch and no way to pay for one.

Simon Fennel, a teacher at Conisborough College in Catford, southeast London, told Sky News: "I've quite often put my hand in my pocket because I hate to see the children going hungry.

"I can't see why I can't put my hand in my pocket just to help them out for that time."

The survey, conducted with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT), showed Mr Fennel was not alone as it also reveals two-thirds (66%) of school staff say teachers are providing pupils with food or money for meals if they turn up for lessons hungry.

Highlighting just how tough it was for some pupils on the poverty line who cannot afford to eat, one tutor said in the report: ''Myself and many teachers in other schools feed children with bread or crackers in the morning from their own budget.''

Sid Robinson, another teacher at Conisborough College, said: "It really does impact on the attention span of the children.

"They lose their concentration and make poor behaviour choices in class. It's compounded if they have not had breakfast and lunch."

The Government says it is committed to providing free school meals for those that need them the most, but campaigners say proposed benefit changes next year may see some losing out.

Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children's Society, said: "Something is going badly wrong when teachers themselves are having to feed children. When the Universal Credit starts next year it must make free school meals available to all children living in poverty."

A third of the teachers questioned also said they felt the size of the school meal offered was small or inadequate.

The view was echoed by unemployed Kat Dobson whose 11-year-old son eats school lunch.

She told Sky News: "Free school meals are a necessity for people like me who are on benefits and on a budget but the amount they get to eat at school is a joke.

"It's not worth putting down in front of them. It's not enough. It's a joke.

"As soon as my son comes home he's in the fridge saying, 'I'm hungry' but if he wasn't on free school meals he'd be on packed lunches and that would cost £4 a day - which is a hell of a lot of money."