Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Heads ask ‘what century are we living in’ over rising food bank use

Handout photo courtesy of Charlotte White of volunteers working at a foodbank in Earlsfield, south London. Independent food banks are giving out more than 13,000 emergency food parcels a week as demand soars during the coronavirus pandemic, data shows. Some 340,994 three-day food parcels were distributed by 189 independent food banks in the UK between April and September, according to the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN/PA)
Handout photo courtesy of Charlotte White of volunteers working at a foodbank in Earlsfield, south London. Independent food banks are giving out more than 13,000 emergency food parcels a week as demand soars during the coronavirus pandemic, data shows. Some 340,994 three-day food parcels were distributed by 189 independent food banks in the UK between April and September, according to the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN/PA)

Headteachers have criticised “Dickensian” levels of poverty in the country at a conference on Friday.

Paul Gosling, the new president of the NAHT school leaders’ union, told the annual conference in Telford that when he first became a headteacher, he had only heard of the use of food banks in connection with work with the homeless in London.

“But now they are a vital part of our local community’s support,” he said, adding, “what century are we living in?”

He said that when he became headteacher of Exeter Road Community Primary School in Devon 13 years ago, around 30% of children were receiving free school meals, whereas in the January 2022 census, that figure had jumped to 45%, a “shocking and stark” rise in poverty levels.

Dr Gosling added that the local food bank has given him emergency rations to pass on to struggling families, while 8% of the children at his school had Christmas presents provided by charity.

“This is Dickensian,” he said.

Dr Gosling also highlighted the “worrying increase” in parents struggling with their mental health, with some parents “in tears” after the morning drop off, because of their fears about being unable to pay their rent or feed their children.

“This Government’s aspirations for education contained in its recent white paper can only be realistically achieved by tackling poverty,” he said.

“By largely ignoring the issue of child poverty, this government is not taking the success of all children in education seriously.”

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi (Victoria Jones/PA)
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi (Victoria Jones/PA)

Dr Gosling told the conference that his school is finding it increasingly “challenging” to provide some of the services cut through austerity measures, such as parenting courses or baby and toddler groups, while accessing mental health services for pupils has become “almost impossible”.

He added that it is “painfully ironic” that the Government has suggested one-to-one tuition as a way of meeting numeracy and literacy targets, when his school had employed one-to-one teachers for this purpose in 2012, and was forced to cut these posts because of the decline in school funding.

Dr Gosling said that his one form entry school welcomed 26 refugee pupils from Afghanistan, which he says demonstrates a humanity that is lacking in how headteachers have been treated during the pandemic.

“On the cold, dark days of January and February, watching the children play together, even without a commonly spoken language, brings home the warmth and humanity that I know exists in many schools and academies,” he said.

He added that “some of the warmth and humanity has been driven out of the education system” and that this was exposed by the “utter contempt” with which school leaders were treated during the pandemic.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi’s absence at the conference is a sign that he is “unable to be here to look in the eye a group of people who truly understand what it means to be a leader”, he said.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, told the conference that “an absolute failure of political leadership” is making education harder for heads, teachers and pupils.

The NAHT conference will discuss whether schools should receive more funding to help refugee pupils to settle in, as schools may be one of the first places where pupils fleeing war start to process the trauma they have experienced.

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]

More from the Press and Journal Politics team

More from the Press and Journal