Financial pressures following years of austerity are causing pupils to arrive in school hungry and struggling to concentrate, a new survey commissioned by the NASUWT teaching union has found.
In total, 2,452 teachers responded to the survey based on their experiences over the last year, with 78 per cent saying that pupils lacked energy and concentration as a result of eating poorly.
A further 24 per cent of teachers said that they had brought in food for hungry pupils themselves, while 80 per cent had seen pupils arriving at school in clothes inappropriate for the weather.
When asked how financial pressures had affected pupils, 72 per cent of respondents said learners were more likely to be absent from school and 60 per cent said they caused behaviour problems.
Housing was reported as a significant problem, with 22 per cent of teachers questioned saying they knew of pupils who had lost their homes due to financial pressures, and 32 per cent saying they had taught pupils who were living in temporary accommodation such as hostels.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, which is holding its conference in Cardiff this weekend, said: “These are truly shocking statistics that show the lives of children and young people are being blighted and degraded by poverty and homelessness.
“Teachers and other public service workers are struggling to pick up the pieces caused by this coalition’s economic and social policies.”
She added that poverty and homelessness were taking a “physical and emotional toll on children”.
“They often cannot concentrate when they are in school because they are tired and hungry, have no space to do homework and have to travel long distances to get to school from temporary accommodation,” she said.
“They are likely to suffer more ill health and absenteeism.
“Schools cannot be expected to pick up the pieces and have to overcome the profound adverse impact of poverty and homelessness alone.”
A Conservative Party spokesperson said that the number of children living in poverty since 2010 had falled by 300,000.
The spokesperson added: “And because of the Pupil Premium, the poorest pupils are getting an extra £2.5bn targeted at their education each year, which is already closing the attainment gap with their peers.
“Because of our policies, there are more jobs than ever before, wages are rising faster than prices and with the lowest inflation on record, family budgets are starting to go further.
“The NASUWT should recognise how the Conservatives have rescued the economy, and through that, are delivering the jobs that secure a better future for families.”
A Liberal Democrat spokesperson said: “In government, Liberal Democrats have helped families by cutting income tax for low and middle income earners; expanding free childcare and introducing free school meals for all infant children.
“We agree that there is more to do to ease the squeeze on family budgets and build a fairer society.”
The Liberal Democrats have pledged to extend free school meals to all year groups.
Labour was unable to comment in time for publication of this article.