NEW research from Shelter reveals the impact of homelessness on school age children. Half of teachers at state schools in England (49 per cent) work at a school with children who are homeless or who have become homeless in the last year.

With a dire shortage of social homes, and sky-high private rents forcing more families into homelessness, there are now nearly 140,000 children living in temporary accommodation in England. This means one in 84 children are homeless in England today.

Shelter’s survey of more than 1,000 teachers, carried out by YouGov reveals a failing housing system that is inflicting untold damage on children’s education.

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Shelter, said: “With one in 84 children homeless in England right now, the immense damage being inflicted on their education is a national scandal. An alarming number of teachers are bearing witness to the horrors of homelessness and bad housing that families tell our services about every day. Appalling stories of children falling asleep in class because they don’t have their own bed, and parents filled with worry because they can’t even cook a hot meal in their grim hostel without a kitchen.”

Shelter’s research dives even deeper into the heart-breaking effects of the housing emergency on children, as witnessed by teachers who’ve worked with children experiencing homelessness in the last year:

  • 87 per cent said that children have come to school hungry. Temporary accommodation such as B&Bs and hostels often have only basic or no kitchen facilities at all.
  • 91 per cent said that children’s living situation had negatively affected the mental health of children at their school. 81 per cent reported it having a negative impact on physical health.
  • 78 per cent reported friendship breakdowns among children struggling with homelessness and bad housing.

Shelter’s research resonates with Chiara, a teacher from East London. She said: “Many of the young people I teach are being put at a huge disadvantage by homelessness and bad housing. I have students who have been moved miles out of their area. They get up at 5am just to make it in to school. They’re hungry and tired. We do everything we can for them, but they end up falling behind.

“Some have been placed in temporary accommodation where they don’t even have locks on their doors. They hear alarms going off all night and people coming in and out. They don’t feel safe at all. It’s a vicious cycle because without a secure home, their education suffers.”

Polly Neate continued: “How do we expect children to concentrate in class and succeed without a safe place to call home? To end the nightmare of child homelessness the government must make renting more affordable and build decent social homes. Until then, we need the public’s support more than ever so that we can keep fighting for the families on the frontline of the housing emergency.”

Ethan, 17, lives with his mother in Hackney, London. When Ethan was 11, his family received a S21 no fault eviction notice, which plunged them into homelessness. They were housed in temporary accommodation for the next six years where they dealt with appalling conditions including mould, disrepair, and pest problems. This had a huge impact on Ethan’s health, education, and wellbeing throughout his time at school.

Ethan said: “We spent just over a year in the hostel when we were first evicted. The place was infested with cockroaches and there wasn’t any drinking water – we didn’t even have a kitchen. If you wanted to do dishes, you had to use a bucket in the shower and cooking anything was impossible, so I often went to school hungry.

“I was always so exhausted because I had to wake up so early to get to school. I got home at 5.30pm every day because I had to stay late to do my homework. There just wasn’t any space to concentrate at home – the place was so small that mum was constantly injuring herself, and we were always bumping into each other. It was a nightmare.

“We were moved to different temporary accommodation after the first year. The building wasn’t looked after properly, and my room became covered in mould. Half of my things were destroyed because it was so damp, and I had to sleep on the couch or share a bedroom with my mum – which was hard. In the end, the damp became so bad that the floor in the living room rose by nearly a foot.”

* Source: Shelter