“It’s the grey skin, the pallor, you really notice,” says Ashfield headteacher in warning of poverty impact on pupils

Louise Regan.
Louise Regan.

An Ashfield teacher has warned poverty is having a real impact on pupils across the country.

Louise Regan was among headteachers who spoke out at the National Education Union conference in Brighton.

Teachers from across England and Wales were highlighting the issues faced by an increasing number of children growing up in poverty and how their experiences affect their education.

Ms Regan was headteacher at Hillocks Primary and Nursery School, Unwin Road, Sutton, but stood down 12 months ago to take up a one-year role as national president of the National Union of Teachers.

She told reporters at the Easter weekend conference: “When you take children out to an event, maybe a sporting event, you see children of the same age from schools in an affluent area.

“It’s the grey skin, the pallor. It’s the pallor you really notice.

“Monday morning is the worst. There are a number of families we target that we know are going to be coming into school hungry. By the time it’s 9.30am they are tired.”

She said her school supplied some pupils with clean uniforms and they often came back in the same clothes, grubby, after the weekend.

The school has a food bank which gives out food parcels and a supply of clothes, shoes and coats for those without.

Another teacher, from a Cumbrian school, said: “Children are filling their pockets with food. In some establishments that would be called stealing. We call it survival.”

The comments came as the NEU published research it carried out with the Child Poverty Action Group.

It found schools were increasingly stepping in to fill the poverty gap, with almost half of the 900 respondents saying their school offered one or more anti-poverty services such as a food bank.

The Department for Education said it wanted to create a country where everyone could go as far as their talents could take them, with a spokesman saying: “That’s why we launched our social mobility action plan, which sets out measures to close the attainment gap between disadvantaged students and their peers, and targets areas that need the most support.”