By Gavin Mackintosh-
Teachers are very concerned an increasing number of their pupils will go hungry this Christmas, according to a union poll.
63% of the 549 teachers interviewed by a Nation Education Union said they were worried more children than last year will be going hungry over the festive period. 59 per cent claimed they believed more children will go without warm clothing, and 90 per cent said the next government must make ending child poverty a top priority.
Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the union, said teachers were confronted with the reality of poverty on children “on a daily basis”.
“At a time of year when children should be excitedly looking forward to the holidays, thousands are facing a bleak Christmas without enough food or warm clothing,” she said.
“In the fifth richest country in the world, we should not still be hearing the same harrowing stories from teachers worried about whether their students will have access to a hot dinner during their two-week break.”
Some schools plan to step in to support families over the two-week break by opening food banks and running collections for presents, clothes and food hampers. The NEU poll follows research by homeless charity Shelter, which found 135,000 youngsters will be without a home or living in temporary accommodation this Christmas.
Data analysis by Action for Children also revealed 983,279 children under 10 will go without basics such as heated home and fresh food. The release of the data on the eve of election day suggests a number of families living below the breadline, but also adds to concerns that their education is most likely already being affected by their poor well being.
The research does not point out what fraction of children expected to be hungry come from families that are alcoholic or drug addicts in which case their hunger may be self inflicted. However, it calls for a closer look into why so many families are without the basic supply to give their children enough this Christmas.