SCHOOL GOVERNORS, head teachers, Parent Teacher Associations and others working in schools have written to the Chancellor urging him to increase child benefit and expand free school meals eligibility to reduce the impact of poverty and hardship on children and on schools.  

The open letter says schools increasingly see children finding it harder to learn because of inadequate family incomes: “It should be obvious that children who are worried, hungry, tired, more frequently ill, and lack resources and adequate clothing, find it harder to learn. And we see this increasingly every single day in our schools.

“What is surprising is that schools and their staff are expected to work harder and harder to try to break this link. Not only does this let children down by ignoring the root cause of the issue, which is insufficient household income, it also applies staggering pressure on schools. And however hard they try, schools cannot undo the damaging effects of poverty.

The Education Anti-Poverty Coalition – a new group – calls on the Chancellor to use the Spring Budget to introduce:

  • An immediate £20 per week increase to child benefit. This would pull 500,000 children out of poverty. Child benefit is simple, predictable and supports every child by being proportional to household size. It would support lower- and middle-income families whose budgets are increasingly squeezed.
  • Free school meals for every school-age child that needs one. This would save families around £440 per year per child and prevent food-related worry and hunger at school.

The signatories warn there is no time to lose: “Poverty has a stark knock-on effect, impacting pupil wellbeing, attainment and attendance – all of which place enormous pressure on stretched school staff to try to resolve. Inaction will risk losing a generation of children trapped in poverty, held back at school and denied a better future.”

* Read the full letter with signatories here.

* Source: Child Poverty Action Group