Austerity politics ‘damaging’ diet and health of pupils

The Scottish Government introduced a policy of free school meals for all P1-P3 pupils. Picture: Alan Murray
The Scottish Government introduced a policy of free school meals for all P1-P3 pupils. Picture: Alan Murray
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circumstances that many ­children are finding themselves in.”

The report comes just two months after the EIS issued advice to teachers on how to spot if a child in their class is going hungry, amid evidence that the problem is having an increasingly detrimental impact on education.

Mr Flanagan also pointed to the fact that 71 per cent of teachers reported an increase in the number of children displaying signs of mental health problems including anxiety, stress and low mood. Reported instances of physical ill-health were also up, with 52 per cent of respondents highlighting a rise in indicators such as headaches, lethargy and weight issues.

He added: “The fact that teachers are reporting such very high increases in both mental and physical health issues in pupils is a huge concern, and highlights the true cost of political choices that have driven more families into poverty and widened the gap between the rich and the poor.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “These findings are truly shocking. No child should be going to school hungry. This government is taking many positive actions to tackle the impacts of poverty on our children.

“It is now one year since we introduced our policy to provide free school meals for all P1-P3 pupils and in that year, families of eligible children who have taken a free meal will have saved around £380.

“As official figures show, around 80 per cent of P1-P3 pupils took a free meal in 2015 and we will continue to work with education authorities, schools and teachers to ensure continued promotion of their uptake. Our action is helping to ensure that every child in Scotland gets the best possible start in life.

“We will also continue to refine and develop a Scottish approach to tackling poverty, through our ministerial advisory group on child poverty working with Scotland’s independent poverty advisor and others, reflecting the importance we continue to place on this challenge.”