Scottish teachers '˜using own money' to help poor pupils

Teachers are personally providing food, school uniforms and spending money for school trips, for children living in poverty a survey by Scotland's biggest teaching union has revealed.

Teachers report a growing problem of poverty affecting Scots pupils. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The results, released today based on replies from Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) members, found 51 per cent of teachers said they or colleagues had taken steps to help less-affluent pupils while 49 per cent said their school had stepped in.

A total of 77 per cent of the 288 of people surveyed said they had seen increased signs of poverty-related mental ill-health while 56 per cent saw a rise in physical symptoms such as headaches, lethargy and unhealthy pallor.

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Seventy-two per cent reported an increase in the number of pupils without stationery, school bags and PE kits.

More than half (53 per cent) also reported an increase in children coming to school without snacks or money for the tuck shop.

And 46 per cent said they had seen an rise in the number of pupils unable to complete homework requiring computer access at home.

Andrea Bradley, the EIS assistant secretary for education and equality, said the results highlighted how low-income poverty “significantly blights” the educational experience of 260,000 children and young people living in poverty in Scotland.

Ms Bradley said: “To the EIS, it is an outrage that over a quarter of the country’s school-aged young people whose families are struggling on low income, are prevented from benefiting, on an equal footing to the rest of their peers, from the many opportunities offered by the education system. Urgent and decisive action at all levels of government is essential to prevent further damage. Children’s education and life chances cannot continue to be sacrificed in the name of austerity.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “It is deeply worrying the impact of these polices is being increasingly seen by teachers and is one reason why we are delivering an additional £120 million into the hands of schools as part of a £750m total to help tackle the attainment gap.

“Despite cuts to our budget, we are mitigating the effect of welfare cuts wherever we can.

“This help totals over £350m in welfare mitigation to try to protect the most vulnerable from the UK government’s austerity agenda and welfare cuts.

“What’s more, the Child Poverty Bill will see Scotland become the only part of the UK to propose statutory targets in a bid to reduce the number of children experiencing the damaging effects of poverty by 2030.”