Charity calls for increase in free school meals as teachers buy food for poorest pupils
A Welsh grassroots charity has called for an increase in free school meals after it was revealed that teachers across Wales have bought food for some of their poorest pupils.
Members of TCC (Trefnu Cymunedol Cymru / Together Creating Communities) – have launched their Wales-wide ‘Stop School Hunger’ campaign in Ysgol y Grango in Wrexham calling on the Welsh Government to urgently increase the free school meals allowance by 80p
The charity says this would mean a child could have breakfast and a proper lunch, delivering immediate relief to thousands of our poorest secondary school children.
It comes after children had been found to be arriving at secondary school on empty stomachs, too hungry to learn and forced to choose between eating breakfast or a proper lunch.
The award-winning, grassroots community organising charity – the oldest of its kind in the UK – also found that teaching staff had been spending their own money to buy food for their poorest pupils.
Headteacher of Ysgol y Grango and TCC member, Mr Stephen Garthwaite, says: “I have seen first-hand the way hunger is destroying our children’s futures.
“TCC research echoes other studies that demonstrate that free school meals are no longer doing the job they are meant to be doing, with teachers bearing the brunt of its shortcomings and propping up a failing system.
“Welsh Government needs to increase the allowance so that it can meet its obligations to provide adequate nutrition to pupils, as outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and its duties to comply with the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.
“This will also help make the new curriculum a success and do much to meet objectives under the Child Poverty Strategy 2015. It’s high time we replace pupils’ hunger for food with a hunger for learning.”
The charity’s own research in north east Wales shows that, during term-time, over half of teaching staff buy food for some of the poorest pupils at school, with some feeding children on a weekly basis. Meanwhile 18% of pupils receiving free school meals, who have not eaten breakfast at home, cite reasons other than ‘not being a breakfast person’ or ‘running short of time’, or are unable or perhaps unwilling to explain why.
TCC were approached by its members at Ysgol y Grango to start this campaign, because children receiving free school meals were arriving at secondary school having not had breakfast.
In a TCC survey of around 500 pupils many said this made them ‘hungry’ and ‘angry’, and in no fit state to learn.
An additional 80p per child, will mean that the 29,223 children currently receiving free school meals will be able to buy breakfast as well as lunch, costing the Welsh Government approximately £3million.
Teaching assistant, Mrs Yvonne Girvan, said: “School hunger leaves its mark – one way or another – and I for one, find it impossible to turn a blind eye when a child arrives at school hungry, having had no breakfast.
“Most staff I know are doing the same, spending their own money on feeding children.
“A good breakfast shows in their work – it improves cognitive function around memory and school attendance, health and wellbeing.
“Being able to afford a breakfast as well as lunch would have a huge impact on the poorest children; that’s why as part of TCC we’re launching this campaign, and I urge the public to sign the petition and share their own stories.”
You can join the Stop School Hunger campaign here.
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