Teachers buying food and topping up gas meters for poorest pupils at school

Teachers at an inner-city school are topping up gas and electricity meters for hard-up families of pupils.

They also buy food and clothing as desperate parents beg for help to keep kids fed and warm amid Tory cuts to benefits that are plunging more and more people into poverty.

Abbey Hey Primary Academy in Gorton, Manchester, even has its own foodbank.

Head Paul Graham said: “I’ve been head for five years and I’ve seen it get worse. We are buying shoes, food, electricity and gas.

“They have nobody else to support them. They bring their meter card and we go to the shop and top it up. It’s not unusual, it happens at least once a month.

“The clothes. It could be coats, shoes, school uniform. The parents are desperate.

“There are a lot more refugee families, more people are living in deprivation. There have been cuts in provision for families.

"There are all kinds of reasons. What we try to do is help. It’s not just about education.”

The scandal came to light after the Mirror highlighted a survey by 1,026 teachers in the National Education Union which showed distressing levels of child poverty in England.

More than half believe that children will go hungry over Christmas and warned a growing number are living in poverty this winter.

Portsmouth’s Medina Primary School sends food parcels to needy families and keeps a stock of clothes for pupils without essentials.

Head Howard Payne said he has seen a four-fold rise in kids with child protection issues ­“intrinsically linked to poverty”. He added: “We would like to do more, but it is a sticking plaster on a bigger problem.”

NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney added: “Local authority support services have all but disappeared through lack of government funding. Parents in ­desperation feel they have nowhere to go for help other than their child’s school.”

Earlier this week it emerged North Denes Junior School in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, had opened a foodbank after teachers noticed hungry pupils were stealing food from classmates’ packed lunches.

A government spokesman said: “Teachers shouldn’t have to step in to tackle the issues highlighted by this survey, and we’re already taking action to make sure that they don’t have to.

“We are committed to ensuring that every child gets the very best chances in life.”

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