Surging child poverty and cuts leave schools ill-equipped to manage behaviour, writes education union boss

19 January 2024, 11:57 | Updated: 19 January 2024, 11:58

Surging child poverty and cuts leave schools ill-equipped to manage behavior
Surging child poverty and cuts leave schools ill-equipped to manage behavior. Picture: LBC
  • Daniel Kebede is the General Secretary of the National Education Union
Daniel Kebede

By Daniel Kebede

Schools and colleges should be places of safety for all who work in them and for the pupils they teach.

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And for the majority this is the case. Where behaviour is an issue schools should have policies that deal with the problem effectively and swiftly for the benefit of the whole school community and indeed for the pupil whose behaviour caused concern.

However, since lockdown and the added impact of the cost-of-living crisis affecting the home lives of many children and young people behaviour that is challenging needs proper and longer term support.

That is what is lacking both within and outside of school.

Local authority’s budgets have been cut to the core with mental health and family support services either severely restricted or non-existent.

School funding has fallen to woefully low levels that now impacts on the provision and support that can be given to students. Add to this a content-laden, over- prescriptive curriculum, an exam driven culture and an underfunded SEND support system, many young people are being driven to a mental health crisis point and schools are expected to deal with the educational and psychological consequences with little or no access to specialist SEND and mental health professionals to enable early and continued support for children and young people.

Dedicated pastoral support teams within schools are now seen as a luxury few schools can afford.

The increase in levels of child poverty is also a factor that determines how a child can concentrate and participate fully in school life.

Government statistics show that 4.2 million children are living in poverty, that is 29% of all children a shockingly high figure and yet still no strategy from Government to address it.

Measures such as the 2-child benefit cap have made a desperate situation even worse.

To ensure no child is left behind and that behaviour in our schools and colleges is properly managed we need to see fundamental change to our benefit system, increased funding for SEND and mental health support and a review of our assessment and school curriculum.