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Plight of homeless pupils

AS MANY as 24,000 school-age children could be homeless in Scotland, according to Shelter and Scottish Homes. Some 80 to 120 children are likely to become homeless every school day.

Research by the Institute for the Study of Education and Society at Edinburgh University into the relationship between homelessness and children's education concluded that councils should have better links between education, social work and housing departments.

The study focused on 24 families, with 40 children in three areas. Teachers and council staff were also interviewed. Schools reported cases of truancy, persistent lateness or other educational difficulties. But the majority suggested other factors were at work, not just homelessness.

The researchers acknowledge that some families are reluctant to inform schools if they become homeless. Some schools said they did not realise that pupils were homeless because there was no formal reporting system in place.

Gavin Corbett, Shelter Scotland's researcher, commented: "A stable home environment is vitally important if children are to do well at school. Unfortunately, thousands of children are living in bed and breakfast hotels or other temporary accommodation. For some children, this could mean frequent changes of school."

The study also drew attention to the effect on pupils' ability to do homework and said many had no space to play.

The fact that an estimated 367,000 children are also living in homes with some form of dampness is another factor affecting not just health but attendance at school and ability to take part in activities such as sports.

"It is ironic that schools, as workplaces, are governed by legislation on minimum temperatures, while no such rules apply to the places where children spend most of their time," the report states.

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