Almost 20,000 Wearside families are struggling with the cost of sending their children to school, a new report has revealed.
Every year parents are forking out an average of £770 per child to meet the basic needs of their child’s schooling, according to a study published today by the Children’s Commission on Poverty.
Backed by the Children’s Society, the report found 78 per cent of parents in the North East are struggling to meet the costs of school clothing, sports kits, school meals, trips, books, materials for classes, stationery, computers for homework, travel to and from school and summer clubs or activities.
Collectively, Sunderland parents are spending £26,899,261 on meeting school costs and 19,303 families are struggling, according to the report.
Sharon Hodgson, MP for Wasington and Sunderland West, said:
“Schools have a growing responsibility to ensure that the significant disadvantages that their pupils face because of poverty are addressed, and they now have significant funding through the pupil premium to help them do that.
“Practical steps could be making sure that uniforms are generic so they can be bought cheaply in supermarkets, running breakfast clubs so that children who don’t get fed on a morning aren’t prevented from learning by hunger, or homework clubs so that children can use computers and other resources they might not have at home.
“Child poverty is a millstone around the neck of children throughout the rest of their lives, and it benefits us all to do everything we can to alleviate its symptoms as soon as possible.”
The Children’s Commission on Poverty, a panel of children aged 10-19 from across England, found the costs are not only affecting family finances, but also harming the wellbeing of the poorest children.
It discovered more than half of the poorest families are borrowing money to pay for essential school items, almost two-thirds of children living in the poorest families are embarrassed as a result of not being able to afford key aspects of school and more than 25 per cent said this had led them to being bullied.
Across County Durham, parents spent £47,073,023 on school costs, with 34,702 families classed as struggling.
The report also found that a third of children living in the poorest families had fallen behind at school because their family couldn’t afford the computer or internet facilities.
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said:
“Children are being penalised and denied their right to an equal education simply because their parents cannot afford the basics. This is just not right.
“The Government needs to listen to this crucial report by young commissioners and act to make sure no child is stopped from getting an education equal to their peers. It must stop children from being made to suffer because they are living in poverty.”
Source – Sunderland Echo, 29 Oct 2014
Low pay and rising prices are pushing thousands of North East families into poverty, a charity chief has told MPs.
Sara Bryson, policy and development officer at Children North East, said that the majority of children in poverty in the region came from working families and that rising employment had not translated into living standards for many.
Giving evidence to Parliament, she called for central and local Government bodies in the region to introduce the Living Wage so that families could cover the basic costs of living.
Ms Bryson said that more than 60% of all children living in poverty in the North East have working parents and that it was years of stagnant pay and high prices that has pushed many low-income families to breaking point.
“It’s about making sure when people do work they can afford to feed their children and send them to school,” said Ms Bryson. “In order to do that they need to earn a living wage.
“National Government is very much focussed on getting people jobs in the private sector but the recession has hit hard and industry still hasn’t fully recovered up here. The region’s public sector, which has always been our most dominant employer, has also been hit hard.
“One in four children and young people in the North East live below the official poverty line. It is not fair or right that they don’t get the same chances and breaks as their peers.”
During the Parliamentary discussion, Ms Bryson shared her views, opinions and knowledge around poverty in schools and child poverty issues.
The Children’s Commission on Poverty and The Children’s Society will meet in August and September to review the findings from the sessions and produce an independent report which will be published in October.
“Education is so important to lift children out of poverty but they need to have a positive experience at school,” added Ms Bryson. “Some children will never have been on a school trip, they will have gone without meals, warm clothes and perhaps felt embarrassed or scared to bring their friends home.
“I was brought up in Blakelaw, in Newcastle’s west end, and it was my first school trip that inspired me to go on to university and study.
“As well as adopting the Living Wage we need to work closely with schools to maintain a bursary for pupils after the National Education Maintenance Allowance was abolished and ensure schools are effectively using the Pupil Premium funding from the Government to support disadvantaged children.
“We also doing terrific work as a charity at helping teachers and school staff better understand the individual needs of children in poverty. This goes a long way to abolishing the stigma and prejudices felt between children at school.”
The latest figures show that 24.5% of children in the North East are in poverty, compared to a UK average of 20.6%.
That figure rises to 29% in Newcastle and the proportion of children living in poverty in some parts of the city is far higher. In both Walker and Byker, in the city’s east end, the figure rises above 50%.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 31 July 2014