Nearly one in three children on free school meals in north-east England

Nearly one in three children in the north-east are receiving free school meals (FSM), according to figures that reveal a 10% rise across 영국, as school leaders warn the real level of child poverty is even higher.

The figures released in the Department for Education’s annual school census show that 22.5% of state school pupils are on FSM, 부터 20.8% 작년, reflecting the increasing number of households on universal credit and earning less than £7,400 a year after tax.

Four years ago the proportion of children on FSM was just 13.6%. That meant fewer than one in seven pupils were eligible. The current rate is one in 4.4.

Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), 말했다: “Our members have described the rise in poverty in their schools’ communities over the past year as shocking and stark. It is clear that the combined pressures of Covid-19 and the cost of living crisis have driven more families and children into poverty.”

While the proportion of children on FSM has risen across the country, the north-east of England had the highest rate, 와 29.1% of pupils eligible, while the north-west, the west Midlands, 런던, and Yorkshire and the Humber had about 25% of pupils eligible.

The south-east of England had the lowest rate, 와 17.6%.

Julie McCulloch, the director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), 말했다: “It is shocking that in one of the world’s wealthiest economies we are seeing a very significant increase in the number of children eligible for free school meals, and therefore living in extremely difficult financial circumstances.

“We recognise that this rise is at least partly due to transitional protections over a change in benefit payments which are linked to eligibility, but it is also likely that we are seeing the economic impact of the pandemic on many families affected by illness and job losses. Their circumstances will become even more severe because of the cost of living crisis.

“Even more shocking is the fact that current eligibility does not even capture all the children who need help. Free school meal eligibility now applies to 22.5% of pupils, but we know that the level of child poverty is about 30%.”

ASCL, the NAHT and other groups have been lobbying for the government to widen FSM eligibility to include all children from households receiving universal credit, removing the £7,400 annual cap.

“It is simply unacceptable that so many young people live in such difficult circumstances, and it has a huge impact on their education as they are less likely to be ready to learn if their families are struggling to provide them with basics such as a nutritious diet,” McCulloch said.

이상 50% of Gypsy and Roma pupils were eligible for FSM, as were more than 40% of children from Black Caribbean backgrounds. 이상 21% of white British pupils were eligible.

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