Food, clothes, transport, beds, ovens: the aid schools are giving UK pupils

Oct 14, 2014 by

Headteachers are breaking the rules to feed children and their families because they say they cannot ignore the signs of poverty

Fiona Gittings, a headteacher in a large primary school in the south of England, is talking about a child whose mother was recently refused asylum. The family was homeless and had been moved from place to place. Finally, they were put in a hostel so far from the school that transport costs were prohibitive. “Being in a hostel was terrifying and utterly unsuitable for the children,” says Gittings. “Carrying on coming to this school, where he was well settled, was so important for that child – it was the only stability he had.”

So Gittings dipped into an emergency fund she has created to pay for a bus pass for both mother and child. She set up the fund a few months ago with £500 of her school budget, £500 from her parent-teacher association and £500 from the church. She knows she can’t continue to pay for their travel though: one adult and one child bus pass for a month comes to about £100. So eventually the child may be forced to move to a new school.

It’s not the first time Gittings has helped poor families out. “This mum had no money – she was literally begging and borrowing to pay for two bus rides across the city to get her child to school. I told her to ask me if she needed help. She’s desperate and she was utterly mortified, but I am so proud that she felt she could come to me.”

But bus passes are the least of it. Gittings lists other recent payments she has made from the emergency fund: new bunks for two children when their beds were destroyed in a domestic violence incident; £12 to a mum heading to court who thought she’d have to pay for a non-molestation order (she brought the money back); a bed, a table and a chair for a boy living with his dad where there was no furniture other than a sofa in the flat. Then there’s £30 to £50 food money every few weeks to a “very proud” grandmother looking after a young boy. “I couldn’t trust the mum not to shove it up her arm, but the nan I could.”

Gittings says she has never been approached for help – “people are really embarrassed” – so she offers support on the basis of what children let slip to staff. “How can it be that people today can’t afford to buy food?” she asks. “A friend came over to look at my school – her kids go to one in another part of the city – and what she couldn’t get over was how much smaller my kids were. I’ve had children tell me they’re hungry. I’ve had children scavenging food. Now I’m giving out actual money; that’s extreme. We deal with the extremes. But I don’t hear about everything. There are families in need I won’t know about.”

via Food, clothes, transport, beds, ovens: the aid schools are giving UK pupils | Education | The Guardian.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.