THE COST OF LIVING CRISIS is increasingly affecting young people’s education according to new research published by the Sutton Trust. A survey of school teachers across England, carried out by Teacher Tapp, reveals that teachers are seeing growing numbers of pupils facing serious issues linked to living costs this autumn term.
Despite calls to widen access to Free School Meals from the 22.5 per cent of pupils currently eligible, the government declined to do so in the November budget. However, the research reveals that over half (52 per cent) of Senior Leaders in state schools say that during the autumn term, there was an increase in the number of children in their school unable to afford lunch who were not eligible for Free School Meals..
Leaders working in the most deprived schools, with the highest proportions of existing pupils eligible for Free School Meals, were more likely to say there were more pupils unable to afford lunch, at 59 per cent, compared to 44 per cent of those in the least deprived schools. This indicates that pupils falling just outside of Free School Meals eligibility are increasingly going hungry.
In state schools, three quarters (74 per cent) of teachers say they have seen an increase in pupils unable to concentrate or tired in class, almost seven in ten (67 per cent) have students with behaviour issues, and over half (54 per cent) have seen an increase in those coming to school without adequate winter clothing like a coat. In addition, 38 per cent of teachers said growing numbers of children are coming to school hungry, with 17 per cent saying there was an increase in families asking to be referred to foodbanks.
The survey shows marked differences between the experiences of teachers in the most deprived schools and those in the most affluent. The scale of difference was particularly high for the problems of greatest concern – teachers seeing increasing numbers of children coming to school hungry (56 per cent in the most deprived schools vs 22 per cent in the least), families asking to be referred to a foodbank (27 per cent vs eight per cent) and an increase in those without adequate winter clothing (65 per cent vs 40 per cent).
When asked about the proportion of pupils facing financial pressures that were affecting their ability to succeed in school, 38 per cent of state school teachers said this is the case for at least a third of their class. This rises to 72 per cent in the most deprived schools. There were significant differences by region, with around 43 per cent of all teachers in the North West, Yorkshire and the North East saying more than a third of their pupils are struggling, compared to 27 per cent of teachers from the South East.
Over two-thirds of teachers believe the cost of living crisis will increase the attainment gap between the less well-off and the most well-off pupils in their school, with 18 per cent of teachers believing this increase will be substantial. Just 9 per cent of teachers believe that the crisis won’t have any impact on the attainment gap.
Sir Peter Lampl, Founder and Chairman of the Sutton Trust and Chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: “It’s a scandal that in one of the world’s richest countries growing numbers of children are going without basics such as food and warm clothing. More and more pupils in England’s most deprived schools are coming to school hungry and without warm clothing such as a coat. It’s a fact that children who arrive at school hungry have difficulty learning. Three quarters (74 per cent) of state school teachers say they have seen an increase in pupils unable to concentrate or tired in class. Almost seven in ten (67 per cent) have students with behaviour issues.
“Teachers in the most deprived schools report that increasing numbers of children who are not eligible for Free School Meals are unable to afford lunch. Over two-thirds of teachers believe the cost of living crisis will increase the attainment gap between the less well-off and the most well-off pupils in their school.
“The facts are stark and shaming. Without radical intervention and increased provision for those who need it most, the cost of living crisis will produce a decline in social mobility, gravely endangering the long-cherished project of levelling up.”
* Read Cost of Living 2022, Teacher Tapp polling here.
* Source: The Sutton Trust