Socialist Worker

Majority of teachers have worked in a school with homeless children

by Isabel Ringrose
Issue No. 2732

Sleeping rough on the streets of London

Sleeping rough on the streets of London (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Over half of teachers in Britain have worked at a school with children who were or became homeless in the past three years, according to a new study.

Almost 90 percent of teachers surveyed by homelessness charity Shelter reported pupils arriving to school hungry or in dirty and unwashed clothes. 

And some 94 percent reported tiredness was a big issue for children who were homeless or lived in bad housing.

This means children miss classes or days of school. One teacher described how one child living in emergency accommodation had to leave at 6am to get to school on time. “The family of four are living in one room at a B&B,” they said. 

“Her attendance has dropped severely, she has become ill and she is always tired.” 

The homelessness situation has become worse since the teachers were surveyed in February and March.

Some 20,000 households in England have been made homeless during the pandemic. This is despite a nationwide eviction ban that ended 20 September and was partially extended throughout the holidays. 

Dani Worthington, a headteacher in Batley in West Yorkshire, said, “This was a massive issue before coronavirus hit. But the pandemic has intensified the problem, which is deeply worrying.

“Children who did well when they lived in a stable home became withdrawn and unable to follow their lessons. 

“We had one family where all the kids had to share a bed, they were shattered. It’s not right.”

Scandal 

In a further Shelter survey of 1,072 teachers in October, some 73 percent said homeless children had their education negatively affected. 

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said, “This is a national scandal—and without action, the extra harm being done to homeless children as a result of the pandemic may never be undone.

“Homeless children must not be the invisible victims of this crisis.”

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Children are suffering without suitable homes, electricity, clothing or food as a result of Tory austerity.

The government has the money for a £16.4 billion increase in defence spending, but claims it cannot find the resources to house children. 

The Tories say they’ve boosted welfare support by £9 billion. But it’s not enough to fund support from local authorities, which have faced vicious cuts to their budgets over the last ten years.

And the money is supposed to be split across Britain to cover a range of welfare needs—not just homelessness.

A severe lack of social housing means vulnerable families can be forced into temporary accommodation—often a B&B or studio flat—for months or years. 

The Tories are making it clear that working class children will not be spared from their cuts and hunt for profit. 


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