There is a crisis happening under our noses (and I don’t mean the perpetual problem that is Brexit) and, once again, it seems that it is being left to schools and teachers to address it with little support from government.
The article that has prompted me to write this blog appeared in The Guardian Online on 20 May. It was written in response to the Human Rights Watch Report which states that thousands of children in England do not have enough to eat and that schools are noticing children resort to such desperate and heart-rending measures as pocketing ketchup sachets to try to sate their hunger.
An earlier article in March 2019 went so far as to term schools the ‘fourth emergency service’. This state of affairs is not good enough! When I started teaching in the late 1980s, I recall the then government admonishing teachers for acting as social workers rather than focusing on the curriculum but, as Angela Rayner (Shadow Minster for Education) recognises, a lack of appropriate nourishment and clothing has a negative impact on learning: ‘there are children struggling to learn because of poverty and hunger’.
Teachers would not be fulfilling their duty of care or following their basic human instincts if they did nothing, so I can only applaud those that have made practical moves to address the problems in their schools. But, let’s face it, it should not be left up to them. However, rather than take action to support schools, Amber Rudd has decided to lodge a complaint against the report, questioning its veracity.
To me, the problem seems to be that we have elected members of parliament who are so focused on tribal politics or jostling to be the next prime minster that they are forgetting who and what really matters. Money (to the tune of around £1.5 billion according to some reports) can be found for a temporary debating chamber for parliament (or indeed for contesting the UN Austerity Report). But funding does not appear to be available for those children in our schools who need essential basics in order to learn. Shame on you – it’s time to get your priorities right!