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TOPIC: Child poverty: Pale and hungry pupils 'fill pockets with school food'

Child poverty: Pale and hungry pupils 'fill pockets with school food' 02 Apr 2018 07:43 #6764

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By Hannah Richardson
BBC News Education Reporter in Brighton

Malnourished pupils with grey skin are "filling their pockets" with food from school canteens in poor areas due to poverty, head teachers say.

The heads, from various parts of England and Wales, described how some of their poorest pupils looked thinner, had poor teeth and a grey pallor.

One head said: "My children have grey skin, poor teeth, poor hair, they are thinner."

The government said measures were in place to tackle poverty.

Lynn, a head teacher from a former industrial town in Cumbria, did not want to give her full name for fear of shaming families in her school community.

She was one of a number of head teachers speaking to reporters at the National Education Union conference in Brighton.

They were highlighting the issues faced by an increasing number of children growing up in poverty, and how their experiences affect their education.

'Grubby clothes'
Lynn said that hunger was particularly apparent after the weekend.

She said: "Children are filling their pockets with food. In some establishments that would be called stealing. We call it survival."

Another head teacher from Nottinghamshire, Louise Regan, said: "When you take children out to an event, maybe a sporting event, you see children of the same age from schools in an affluent area.

"It's the grey skin, the pallor. It's the pallor you really notice."

She went on: "Monday morning is the worst.

"There are a number of families that we target that we know are going to be coming into school hungry.

"By the time it's 9.30am they are tired."

The school has a food bank which gives out food parcels and a supply of clothes, shoes and coats for those without.

Poverty and neglect
Lynn said: "We have washing machines and we are washing the children's clothes while they do PE.

"We wouldn't have it that these children are stigmatised because their clothes are dirty."

The school also runs a summer school for three weeks over the holidays, run voluntarily by teaching staff without pay.

Howard Payne, a head at an inner city school in Portsmouth, said there had been a four-fold increase in the number of children with child protection issues.

"Every one of these issues has had something to do with the poverty that they live in," he said.

"It's neglect. It's because they and their families don't have enough money to provide food, heating or even bedding."

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