A teacher who bought a Christmas dinner and gifts for a family after their benefits were stopped has urged Scottish Government ministers to come to their school to see “how frontline services are being stretched to their limits”.
The guidance teacher revealed how they, together with the school’s deputy went to a supermarket after a tearful mother got in touch, saying she had no presents or food for her son.
In a letter to MSPs on Holyrood’s education committee, which is examining how poverty affects attainment and achievement at school, the teacher said: “I would love a government minister to come to my school and shadow me for a week.
“That would give you an insight into poverty in Scotland and how frontline services are being stretched to their limits.”
In a separate submission to the committee, the NASUWT teaching union said that “teachers are now regularly giving increasing numbers of children food, clothes and equipment, at their own expense”.
A survey it carried out of teachers in Scotland in 2016 showed 71 per cent had seen pupils coming to school hungry, while 81 per cent noticed youngsters attending classes without the correct equipment, and 79 per cent were concerned about students lacking in energy and struggling to concentrate because of a poor diet.
The Scottish Government’s Pupil Equity Fund is this year providing schools with £120m – the same amount as in 2017-18 – to help close the attainment gap, with the money going direct to head teachers to determine what it can best be spent on.
But the head of English at one secondary school told MSPs: “The PEF money is a sticking plaster. It is merely a re-injection of the money that has been stripped out of Scottish education over the past decade, and even then it is not a permanent re-injection. The stresses in our system and on our teachers will only be addressed by a massive funding effort.”
Another teacher, who works at a large secondary school in an affluent area of the Central Belt, said: “PEF money is not equivalent to the funding that has been cut in schools and is a temporary measure.
“There may come a time when this money (which is not sufficient in the first instance to close a widening social gap) is no longer awarded.”
The guidance teacher who urged ministers to visit their school told how they had worked in the city with the “highest drug death rate in Europe” for 13 years.
They added: “Every Christmas our staff donate hundreds of gifts and food hampers to our families. I’ve had a parent phoning me in tears as her benefits were stopped and she had no food or present for her boy at Christmas. My depute head and I went to Tesco and bought the family a Christmas dinner and gifts for the family.”