ASCL survey reveals rising tide of pupil poverty

The ASCL has examined the issue of pupil poverty and how it impacts schools,

Hundreds of secondary schools in England and Wales have reported a rising tide of pupil poverty in a survey conducted by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).

The survey, published as ASCL’s annual conference in Birmingham begins, was completed by 407 headteachers representing 11% of state-funded secondary schools in the two countries – 374 from England and 33 from Wales.

Ninety six per cent said the extent of pupil poverty has increased over the past few years.

  • 91% provide items of clothing for pupils suffering from high levels of disadvantage;

  • 75% put on breakfast clubs;

  • 71% provide pupils with sanitary products;

  • 47% wash clothes for pupils;

  • 43% provide food banks or food parcels for pupils/families.

The survey also found that:

  • 92% said there have been cutbacks in local authority support for vulnerable families and young people in their area over the past few years;

  • 98% have experienced difficulty in accessing local mental health services for pupils who need specialist treatment – with most attributing this difficulty to a combination of service cut backs and increased demand;

  • Nearly all respondents – 405 – reported increased demand for in-school mental health support, with commonly cited reasons being the pressures associated with social media, poverty, cuts to local services and exams.

These findings come against a background of intense pressure on school budgets. Almost all respondents (404) have had to cut their budgets since 2015 with 60% saying they have had to make severe cuts.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL, said: “A decade of austerity has wreaked havoc with the social fabric of the nation and schools have been left to pick up the pieces while coping with real-term funding cuts.

“They have become an unofficial fourth emergency service for poor and vulnerable children, providing food and clothing and filling in the gaps left by cut backs to local services.

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“Politicians must end their fixation with Brexit and work together to build a new sense of social mission in our country. We simply must do better for struggling families and invest properly in our schools, colleges and other vital public services.”

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