Over the recent years, the issue of child poverty has escalated to a full-blown crisis in Scotland, where more than one in five children are officially recognized as living in poverty – a level that is considerably lower in many other European countries.
As families struggle to make ends meet, experts warn that the issue of hunger among young people is “moving from the exceptional to the more commonplace,” which means more and more children are going to bed unfed each night. Needless to say, it is also having a serious effect on their classroom performance.
Therefore, in an attempt to tackle the issue while reducing the impact of poverty on students, teachers in Scotland are being urged to identify and help out hungry and malnourished pupils.
The Educational Institute of Scotland, the country’s largest teaching union, has released an advice booklet, Face Up to Child Poverty, which warns about the “increasing concern” of child poverty. The new guidelines, which will be distributed among teachers next week, were drawn after a survey of 300 schools and colleges proved that teachers increasingly have to help malnourished students.
“Pupils may appear pale, fatigued, irritable or lacking in concentration, or complain of headaches or feeling unwell,” the 20-page booklet states. “While there can be other reasons underlying such signs, for a growing number of children and young people in our schools and colleges today, the reason will be hunger.”
Teachers are advised to include children who they suspect are going in the morning breakfast clubs, along with posting the details of nearby food banks on school notice boards so the families can also seek help, according to the guideline.
The guidebook, which includes information on “poverty-proofing” the nation’s classrooms, also offers advice on cost of books, uniforms, field trips and homework – all of which can cause problems for underprivileged children and their families.
EIS has also asked teachers to take a more relaxed approach toward those without uniforms. Schools are also advised to make sure the uniforms are as inexpensive as possible.
While these guidelines are released from time to time, this is the first time that a section on hunger has been included.
“Schools and colleges are part of society, and so are not immune from the problems of that wider society,” said the union’s general secretary Larry Flanagan while blaming the government’s “austerity agenda” for the rise in the problem.
Nearly 222,000 children in Scotland are living in poverty, according to the booklet. While the ratio is currently more than one in five, as mentioned above, it is increasing to more than one in three in several parts of the country. If the current austerity agenda remains the same, the number is expected to increase by almost 50% to 322,000.