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Shocking poll shows the scale of children going hungry at school


Shameful number of children getting to class too hungry to learn makes the case for universal free school meals

The ‘heartbreakingrise of child poverty in the UK has been highlighted in a recent poll that revealed a shameful number of children going to school hungry in England. 

Four in ten teachers said their students were showing up to class too hungry to learn, which rose to 63% in the poorest areas, a new poll by Teacher Tapp reported by the Mirror, found. For more than a fifth of teachers, the issue had become worse since September. 

This has led to schools stepping in to address hunger where pupils don’t qualify for free school meals, with four in ten teachers saying their school is offering free school dinners to hungry children who don’t qualify. This rose to over half in the most deprived areas.  

The poll has emphasised the argument made by campaigners that free school meals should be extended to all primary school pupils, as strict eligibility criteria means many children living in poverty miss out. 

All children can get free school meals up to year 2 and then they are eligible if the parent or carer receives certain benefits. In London Sadiq Khan has pledged to continue offering free school meals to all primary school children for another four years. 

Headteacher Terri Cheung told the Mirror that it was “heartbreaking” to see the number of families struggling financially. A high proportion of her pupils live in poverty and her school in Liverpool has been providing free breakfasts, snacks and writing off school dinner debt to help struggling families. 

The polling also found that a quarter of teachers said their schools had written off school meal debts this year or opened a food bank for families, while more than a third were offering food parcels. 

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown said we are currently seeing “probably the highest levels of poverty in living memory amongst children” with the figures rising dramatically in recent years. 

In 2022/23 the number of children living in poverty increased by 100,000 to 4.3 million, making up 30% of children in the UK, according to Action for Children. A truly abysmal fact in the world’s sixth largest economy. 

(Image credit: Cheshire East Council)

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward



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