The majority of British teachers have worked in a school with children who were homeless, a revent survey has found.
More than half (56%) of survey respondents said they had worked at an educational setting with children who were, or became, homeless and had to live in temporary housing in the past three years.
Of the staff who had worked with these pupils, 94% reported that arriving to class tired was an issue for pupils who lived in inadequate housing or were experiencing homelessness.
88% said missing classes or days of schools was problematic.
‘Support not enough’
One teacher described how exhausted a young pupil became when she had to leave home at 6am for school after moving to emergency homeless accommodation in a different council area.
“She leaves home at 6am every morning to get to school because the local authority have no homes, so she has been temporarily rehoused out of the area,” the teacher said.
“The family of four are living in one room at a B&B. Her attendance has dropped severely, she has become ill and she is always tired.”
Another eacher shared the experience of a student whose housing situation forced him to drop out of school altogether.
“He was in temporary accommodation on his own and just couldn’t handle anything,” they said.
‘His situation was such a mental strain on him that he just couldn’t handle being at college anymore, so he dropped out in the end.
“So, he had such a horrible time of things and, despite all support that we possibly could provide, it’s just not enough from the student’s perspective.”
The survey also found 89% of respondents said arriving at school in unwashed or dirty clothing was an problem for the homeless pupils.
87% said hunger was an issue.
As the data was collected between February and March – just before the first lockdown – Shelter has warned the situation could be worse now.
Individual research conducted by the charity in October found that 73% of 1,072 teachers polled said that homeless children or those living in poor housing had their education more negatively affected than other pupils who lived in suitable housing.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Without a safe and secure home, a child’s life chances can be deeply disrupted.
“This is a national scandal – and without action, the extra harm being done to homeless children as a result of the pandemic may never be undone.
“Homeless children must not be the invisible victims of this crisis.”
Neate added: “We still don’t know what the long-term impact of the pandemic will be on this generation of children.
“But for now, Shelter is here to support and give hope to the families who need us the most.
“With the public’s support, we will do all we can to make sure every child has a safe and secure home – this winter and beyond.”
An MHCLG spokesperson said: “We’re investing £700m to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping this year alone, and our Homelessness Reduction Act has helped over 270,000 households who were homeless or at risk of homelessness into more permanent accommodation, since it came into force in 2018.
“During the pandemic, we’ve taken unprecedented action to prevent people getting into financial hardship by helping businesses to pay salaries, boosting the welfare safety net by over £9bn, and extending furlough.
“We’ve also changed the law to put in place six-month notice periods and banning the enforcement of evictions, except in the most serious cases, until after Christmas.
“We continue to work to with councils, charities, and other partners to help them prevent and relieve homelessness in their areas.”
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