Schools are handing out clothing and food to children amid the cost of living crisis, while teachers report deteriorating hygiene among pupils as families cut back on brushing teeth, showering and even flushing the toilet.
According to a survey of schools in England, nine out of 10 said they were providing clothing and uniforms for students, while seven out of 10 were giving out food in the form of parcels, food bank provisions, vouchers or subsidised breakfasts.
More than 80% of senior leaders told researchers that cost-of-living pressures had increased both the number of children in need of additional support and the level of need, particularly in the most disadvantaged schools.
Meanwhile, the demand for additional mental health support has soared to one in four pupils in mainstream schools, and two out of five in special schools, as the strains on family life take their toll, according to the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER).
The NFER report, published on Thursday, paints an alarming picture of hungry, ill-kempt children whose lives are being profoundly affected – their basic needs unmet – as their parents struggle. Schools are increasingly called on to provide welfare support.
Teachers told researchers they were worried that some children in special schools did not have vital specialist equipment including wheelchairs and mobility aids. They have also seen an increase in illness among pupils due to a lack of heating in homes and poor nutrition, which affects school attendance.
Others are missing school because their parents are not able to afford transport costs, while 90% of primary, secondary and special schools said they were having to subsidise extracurricular activities for some pupils.
One special-school teacher said: “Recently on a school trip we thought pupils were presenting with behaviour issues when they didn’t flush [the] toilet. But it