Portsmouth youngsters turning up to school without breakfast, survey finds

HUNGRY youngsters are turning up to school without having breakfast - dealing a major blow to their chance of paying attention in class.

Friday, 19th July 2019, 10:57 am
Children are going into school hungry. Picture: Shutterstock

A fifth of youngsters in Hampshire and Portsmouth schools said they were struggling to concentrate due to hunger in the morning. One in nine turn up to school without having eaten.

But now senior teachers have raised concerns that funding being used to feed hungry children from impoverished backgrounds may dry up. 

And it comes as schools prepare to end the summer term - a time when authorities are gearing up to tackle so-called holiday hunger with children from disadvantaged families.

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Prominent teacher Amanda Martin, who teaches in the city and is vice president of the National Education Union, said the survey of pupils by Kelloggs was worrying.

She said: ‘I don’t know a teacher who doesn’t have cereal bars in their cupboard to give to children who may be hungry. 

‘In my own school we regularly give fruit to children who we know arrive to school having not eaten breakfast.

‘Hunger massively impacts on both learning and behaviour and more and more pupils are being affected.’

Schools run breakfast clubs - but some Portsmouth teachers are putting their hands in their pockets to fund them after government cuts.Ms Martin added: ‘Many schools have set up breakfast clubs but with budget cuts this is becoming more difficult.

‘I know of one school in the city where every month teachers donate £10 of their own salary to help ensure children get breakfast.’

The survey by Kelloggs found 17 per cent of pupils surveyed were ‘extremely hungry’ by lunchtime. 

The firm spoke to 450 children across Hampshire, including 150 in Portsmouth – and 138 Hampshire teachers.

More than half the teachers surveyed believed hunger had a detrimental impact on exam results. One in ten teachers surveyed said their schools breakfast club had been negatively affected by changes to school funding.

Crofton School headteacher Simon Harrison has vowed to maintain the club at his school but is worried others may not be able to do so.

Mr Harrison said: ‘The Kelloggs report on school breakfast clubs shows a major concern around schools ability to keep this important provision going. 

‘Although we have no plans to change this at Crofton, with funding under such pressure I fully understand why many secondary schools are considering taking this action.’

Deputy director for education at Portsmouth City Council, Mike Stoneman, urged caution about the survey and said current clubs are a ‘great help making sure pupils are alert and ready to start the day’.

Park Community School headteacher Chris Anders has a breakfast club at his school and said: ‘It certainly feels like there is a bigger problem with food provision for children but it’s perhaps a reflection that schools have now recognised that children don’t perform at their best if they are hungry.’