London: Poor Children Attending Schools Tired, Hungry and Dressed In Rags

15 Apr

A rising number of children are going to school tired, hungry and poorly dressed because they are living in poverty, a survey of teachers suggests.

 Poverty Causing Hunger And Fatigue In Schools Enlarge photo

Just under 80% of teachers say they have pupils living in a family below the poverty line, the survey for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers found.

And one in four believe poverty among their pupils has increased since the start of the recession.

One teacher from Halifax, West Yorkshire, told researchers that one boy had been laughed at by classmates when changing for PE because he was not wearing underpants.

In another case, a teacher had a sixth-form student who had not eaten for three days because the child’s mother had no money until pay day.

The poll, which questioned more than 600 teachers, found that 86% believe that poverty is badly affecting the wellbeing of some students.

One teaching assistant in a West Midlands secondary school told researchers: “Every day I become aware of a child suffering due to poverty. 

“Today I have had to contact parents because a child has infected toes due to feet squashed into shoes way too small.”

Craig Macartney, a secondary school teacher from Suffolk, said: “More children from middle- to lower-income families are not going on school trips and these families find it difficult to meet the basic cost of living.

“A family with two or three teenage children who have one earner who loses hours, or their job, will struggle to reach the minimum income to pay for basics. 

“This will get worse as the impact of the cuts affects families.”

Around eight in 10 teachers said poverty affected the achievements of pupils, with pupils under-achieving and lacking motivation.

“There is a change in attitude of lower sixth students towards higher education,” said college lecturer Jane Hill, from Worcester. 

“Many feel it is beyond their economic reach now and are somewhat disaffected in terms of their attitude towards study and A-levels.”

According to Save the Children, up to 1.6 million children in the UK are living in poverty with the Manchester area of Gorton and Tower Hamlets in London being the hardest hit.


© Eurochild/2011/Becker
From left: Ezio Perillo, Director for Legislative Affairs in the Legal Service of the European Parliament; Roberta Angelilli, Vice-President of the European Parliament Responsible for Children; and UNICEF Brussels Director Philippe Cori.

BRUSSELS, Belgium, 6 April 2011 – The European Parliament has launched a new ‘Alliance for Children’ in partnership with UNICEF and a group of international non-governmental organizations – the Children’s Rights Action Group – including Save the Children, Plan International, Eurochild and World Vision.

The alliance is an informal, cross-party effort by parliamentarians coming together to raise the profile of children’s issues in the European Parliament, which has 736 members from the 27 countries of the European Union. It aims to create synergies across committees and incorporate children’s rights into the mainstream work of the legislative body.

‘A direct impact’

Roberta Angelilli, Vice-President of the European Parliament Responsible for Children, and the chairs of seven parliamentary committees co-signed an invitation to all the Members of the European Parliament to join the Alliance for Children last month. The response reflected a wide interest in children’s issues across committees.

“Many of the decisions we take in our work as MEPs have a direct impact on the quality of children’s lives, their rights and their opportunities,” said Ms. Angelilli. “Through the establishment of this working group, we want to create a synergic action that always puts the interests and well-being of the child into the heart of all European policies.”

New opportunities

During the inaugural meeting of the Alliance for Children, the Legal Service of the European Parliament detailed opportunities for the parliament to build a legislative strategy on children’s rights, based on new provisions of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty.

© European Parliament/2011
Alliance for Children is highlighted on the homepage of the European Parliament website.

Members of the alliance also agreed to prepare a cross-committee report on the new strategy known as the EU Agenda for the Rights of the Child. The European Commissioner Responsible for Children will address the next alliance meeting to present the agenda.

Meanwhile, the alliance will ask each relevant committee of the European Parliament to designate a child-rights contact person; highlight children’s issues in committee work; and liaise with the alliance to ensure that interested parliamentarians are alerted about upcoming work relating to children.

Action on behalf of children

UNICEF has prepared a draft set of ‘Principles for Parliamentarians’ that members of the Alliance for Children will be asked to sign and adopt at the group’s next meeting. The principles commit parliamentarians to use the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as a basis for their work – and to take at least one action on behalf of children during each parliamentary session.

The alliance was highlighted on the homepage of the European Parliament’s website, drawing further attention to its coordinating role.
The UNICEF Brussels EU Office initiated the European Parliament Alliance for Children and will facilitate its meetings, together with the Children’s Rights Action Group


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