In the last three years, over half of state school teachers in Britain (56 per cent) have worked at a school with children who were homeless or became homeless, a major study has revealed.
The findings show most teachers have first-hand knowledge of the damage done by the housing emergency to education –– with it now commonplace to see children grappling with homelessness at school.
With the impact of the pandemic making housing inequalities worse, Shelter, who commissioned YouGov to conduct the survey, warned that this desperate situation could worsen for the 136,000 homeless children living in Britain.
In the last three years, some of the most devastating effects seen by teachers with experience of working with homeless children or those living in bad housing include hunger, tiredness, absenteeism and poor hygiene.
The survey found that 88 per cent of these teachers reported children missing school as a key issue. This is often because children can face significant difficulties with their journey to school if they become homeless and are accommodated a long way from their former home.
Eighty-seven per cent reported children coming to school hungry. Temporary accommodation such as B&Bs and hostels are often not equipped with suitable or any cooking facilities.
Meanwhile, 94 per cent of teachers reported tiredness as an issue for homeless children and those living in bad housing. In overcrowded accommodation children may struggle to sleep.
Eighty-nine per cent reported children arriving at school in unwashed or dirty clothing. This can be caused by a lack of proper or affordable washing facilities in temporary accommodation, as well as issues such as mould and damp in poor-quality 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.
“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.”
Picture: A dramatic portrait of a homeless boy. (bodnarchuk).