Child poverty and education: A survey of the experiences of NEU members

Post date: 
02 April 2018

A joint National Education Union (NEU) and Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) survey received responses from 908 NEU members working in early years, primary and secondary schools and settings across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Read a report of the findings

In summary:

  • 87% of respondents think that poverty or living on a low income affects the learning of their pupils/students significantly.
  • 60% of respondents think that the extent of poverty in their schools and its effect on low-income pupils/students has got worse since 2015. Of these, a third (33%) think it has worsened significantly.
  • Schools are increasingly stepping in to fill the poverty gap with almost half of respondents stating that their school directly provides one or more of a range of anti-poverty services. Almost one in five respondents (18%) say their school runs a low cost food club; 13% report that their schools runs a free food bank; 16% say their school offers free or subsidised family meals; 16% say they have a clothing bank; and in a small number of cases (4%), respondents say their school provides emergency loans to families.
  • Schools are also supporting low-income families by fully funding or subsidising participation by poorer pupils/students in activities such as school trips, extra-curricular activities and sports teams or clubs. Between half and four fifths of respondents say their school supports families with one or more of these activities.
  • School staff are personally providing vital support for their pupils and students from low-income families. On at least a termly basis, over half of respondents (53%) say they personally provide school equipment such as books and stationery; over a third say they provide food; more than a fifth are supplying PE or sports kit; 14% donate toys and play things; 10% provide sanitary protection; 10% provide other hygiene products; and 8% help with travel costs. Many are doing so at least once a week.
  • Over half (55%) of respondents think not enough children/young people are currently entitled to free school meals (FSM) and that there are many others who are not eligible yet whose families struggle to afford the cost of school meals.
  • A majority of respondents (60%) think that most children in their school who are eligible for free schools meals are receiving them, but over a fifth (21%) think some of those eligible are not getting their free meals. A further 4% think the number missing out on their entitlement is significant.
  • Where eligible children do not receive FSM, 56% of respondents think this is because parents feel too embarrassed to claim them; 52% think parents don’t realise their child may be eligible; and 46% think the process for claiming is too bureaucratic or complex.
  • 44% think that children who are refugees and asylum seekers are more likely to be living in poverty than others; and a similar number (41%) think that disabled children/young people or those with special educational needs were more likely than others to be poor.