Teachers spend own money to buy food for poor pupils
New survey uncovers rising inequality affecting schoolchildren in Scotland.
More than half of teachers have used their own money to help pupils living in poverty, research has revealed.
A survey of Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) members uncovered rising inequality in Scotland's schools, with 60% of respondents stating they had seen an increase in the number of children attending their schools who are experiencing poverty.
More than half of the 288 people surveyed (53%) reported a rise in pupils coming to school with little or no food, snacks or money, while 72% noted an increase in those without basic stationery, school bags and PE equipment.
A total of 77% observed increased signs of poverty-related mental ill-health while 56% reported a rise in physical symptoms such as headaches, lethargy and unhealthy pallor.
Almost half (46%) said more pupils were unable to complete homework that required computer access at home.
Against this backdrop, the report heard of many instances where teachers had directly intervened to help less-fortunate pupils.
Just over half (51%) had spent their own money on food, clothing or trips, while 49% of schools had done the same.
Andrea Bradley, EIS assistant secretary for education and equality, said: "The results clearly underline that low-income poverty significantly blights the day-to-day educational experiences of the 260,000 children and young people now living in poverty in Scotland.
"To the EIS, it is an outrage that over a quarter of the country's school-aged young people whose families are struggling on low income are prevented from benefiting, on an equal footing to the rest of their peers, from the many opportunities offered by the education system.
"Urgent and decisive action at all levels of government is essential to prevent further damage. Children's education and life chances cannot continue to be sacrificed in the name of austerity."
She welcomed additional funding for schools from the Scottish Government but said it was "against a backdrop of successive years of under-funding of comprehensive education, which must be addressed".
A Scottish Government spokeswoman highlighted the "devastating impact of the UK Government's policy of continued austerity".
She said: "It is deeply worrying that the impact of these polices is being increasingly seen by teachers and that is one reason why we are delivering an additional £120m into the hands of schools as part of a £750m total to help tackle the attainment gap."
Green MSP Alison Johnstone said: "It's appalling that so many children arrive in school underfed and without basic equipment.
"With new devolved social security powers, Scotland can boost the incomes of families that are struggling, for example by topping up child benefit by £5 a week which would lift 30,000 children out of poverty."