More than half of secondary school teachers believe that holiday hunger has got worse at their school over the past three years, a snapshot survey has found.
In total, 59 per cent of the 657 National Education Union (NEU) members who took part in the poll believed that families at their school were unable to afford enough food over the summer break.
One teacher wrote: “When many of our children are struggling to get enough food during term time (when over 50 per cent get at least one good meal per day as they have free school meals), the problem will obviously be exacerbated during the holidays.”
Another said that they “see children come back to school in September looking visibly less well nourished”.
The survey, which was carried out last weekend, also found that:
- 51 per cent said holiday hunger at their school had got worse over the past three years; 26 per cent said it was about the same, while only 1 per cent said it had got better.
- 42 per cent were not aware of any local provision outside their school to tackle holiday hunger.
- 59 per cent thought the combination of provision inside and outside their school did not meet local demand. Only 5 per cent said it did.
Ros McNeil, assistant general secretary of the NEU, said: “Teachers are acutely aware of the devastating effects of holiday hunger on children’s mental and physical wellbeing.
“Such extensive poverty simply should not exist in a country with the fifth-largest economy.
“Food banks, faith groups and charitable/voluntary organisations are now being left to pick up the pieces where central government has failed.”
Last week, the government announced it was spending £2 million on free meals for families during the summer holidays amid concern that pupils were increasingly reliant on schools for food handouts.
The Department for Education said a series of government-backed projects had been set up to help provide healthy food and activities in some of the most disadvantaged areas in the country.
Ms McNeil said: “Given the scale of the problem, the government’s announcement of £2m additional funds to help disadvantaged children with food and fun over the holidays, while welcome, goes nowhere near far enough to tackle the desperate plight of families and children.”
Children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “We want every child to have the best chances in life and since 2010 there are 300,000 fewer children living in absolute poverty.
"This government is spending around £90 billion a year on working-age benefits, including for those on low incomes.
“We have also just announced £2m investment to help thousands of families benefit from free activities and healthy meals during the summer holidays.
"Alongside this, we continue to support the country’s most disadvantaged children through free school meals and with £2.5bn through the pupil premium to support their education.”