CHILDREN are turning up to school hungry and skipping lunchtime meals as they cannot afford to eat, according to the latest research.
Some youngsters have been spotted stealing toast as they are so hungry, and a teacher found two girls sharing a packed lunch in the school toilets when one had no money for food, according to a report by the Children’s Society charity.
And, last night, North East head teachers said children were going hungry and many showed up without an adequate packed lunch.
June Foster, executive head teacher of the Arthurs Hill Federation in Newcastle, said: “Over the years in the schools I have worked in I have had experience of children going hungry and we have provided breakfast clubs to give them a good start to the day.
“Sometimes, children come to school and they haven’t got an adequate packed lunch or show signs of being hungry. If we think the children are hungry we will contact parents.”
The study, based on a survey of around 570 teachers, reveals serious concerns among school staff about the levels of hunger among pupils. Almost three in four of the teachers surveyed said they have seen pupils coming into school with no lunch and no way to pay for one.
And nearly half said that children are often, or very often, hungry during the school day.
The study, conducted with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT), also reveals that two-thirds of school staff say that teachers are providing pupils with food or money for meals if they turn up for lessons hungry.
According to The Children’s Society’s figures, more than half of the 2.2 million children living in poverty in England miss out on a free school meal each day.
Of these, around 700,000 are not entitled to one, and a further 500,000 do not take them up because of barriers such as fear of bullying or being stigmatised, the charity said.
Joe Waddle, the NUT’s divisional secretary for North Tyneside, said: “The problem is that quite a number of families who are actually entitled to free school meals don’t claim them. They think children are going to be isolated at school and they don’t want that stigma.
“We need to raise people’s awareness about free school meals, and that it is completely confidential.”