Ovenden, just north of Halifax town centre in the borough of Calderdale, is one of the poorest areas in the country. Around thirty-six percent of children aged 15 and under are from income-deprived families, where parents are out of work, rely on government benefits or have lower earnings compared to other areas of the country, according to government data. According to the last UK census, the unemployment rate in Ovenden is 8%, more than double the national average. Huff Post reports
In this sense, Moorside – which has ten teachers and 245 pupils aged three through eleven – is a typical school. Its problems are mirrored across the country. Schools all over the UK are struggling not only to provide a quality education, but also to address the needs of some of society’s most vulnerable children.
“No child should go hungry, but they’re coming into school hungry,” said Katy Empsell, a teaching assistant at Moorside. “You go home and eat your own meal and feel guilty, because you know there are children waiting that full 24 hours until their next school meal.”
After school starts each day, attendance officer Lisa Farrell and her colleagues begin ringing the parents of children who haven’t turned up. Some students struggle to get out of bed and just need a push, but certain children need to be checked on immediately, due to child protection and safeguarding issues. The pastoral team has five emergency contact numbers for each child, and if they can’t get a response, they carry out a home visit.
These visits expose some of the harrowing conditions children are living in – bleak rooms with peeling walls and broken doors and windows. Some children sleep on mattresses on the floor. Instead of toys and books, they are surrounded by expanses of uncarpeted floor with just a settee and maybe a television in the corner.
“I go home many times crying,” said attendance officer Lisa Farrell. “When you know you are sending a child back to a house which is dirty, has no food and where they may not feel 100% safe, you feel powerless.”
Read the full very sad article How funding cuts and rising poverty are pushing schools to breaking point – HuffPost UK spends a week at a school where the crisis is being felt by teachers and children
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