Headteachers are warning that schools in England are having to "pick up the pieces" for families in poverty, including giving food and clothes to children.

Sarah Bone, headteacher of Headlands school, a comprehensive in Yorkshire’s East Riding, said: “We have far too many children with no heating in the home, no food in the cupboards, washing themselves with cold water, walking to school with holes in their shoes and trousers that are ill-fitted and completely worn out, and living on one hot meal a day provided at school.”

There were also reports of pupils with no winter coats, while others said they regularly had to buy shoes for their pupils.

shoes with holes in

The report comes as the ASCL Association of School and College Leaders meets for its annual conference in Birmingham.

"This is a national crisis"

Children North East’s School Research and Delivery Lead Luke Bramhall told Metro Radio: "This is a national crisis that needs to be addressed now. The results of this survey completely reflect what we see when we go into schools and it underlines just how important our poverty proofing work is to ensure no pupil is disadvantaged because of their financial situation.

"There are currently 4.1 million children living in poverty in the UK, with that figure set to rise to 5.2 million over the course of the next five years based on predictions by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

"The depth of poverty is increasing, therefore it's no surprise to me that schools are facing the brunt of this. Wider support services across our communities are depleting and we see families turning to schools as places of refuge and a place of support."

Bare fridge

Unofficial fourth emergency service

Geoff Barton, the ASCL’s general secretary added: “A decade of austerity has wreaked havoc with the social fabric of the nation and schools have been left to pick up the pieces while coping with real-term funding cuts.

“They have become an unofficial fourth emergency service for poor and vulnerable children, providing food and clothing and filling in the gaps left by cutbacks to local services.

“Politicians must end their fixation with Brexit and work together to build a new sense of social mission in our country. We simply must do better for struggling families and invest properly in our schools, colleges and other vital public services.”

School food banks

Nine out of 10 heads said they gave clothes to their most disadvantaged pupils, and nearly half said they washed clothes for pupils.

More than 40% reported operating a food bank at the school or giving food parcels to pupils and their families.


Children North East works alongside schools through our Poverty Proofing The School Day Program and other programs to support schools in being able to offer the support for these families and children that is desperately needed.

Find out more about Poverty Proofing 

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