Crawley heads agree welfare cuts could damage education

Dawn Martin Head Teacher of Gossops Green Primary School (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-150906-093731008
Dawn Martin Head Teacher of Gossops Green Primary School (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-150906-093731008

Headteachers have said they share union concerns welfare cuts could have a negative impact on education.

Chancellor George Osborne announced a number of cuts and changes to the welfare system during his Budget on Wednesday (July 8).

While the changes were expected to slash £12billion from the country’s welfare bill, there were fears the education of children from poor families would suffer.

Russell Hobby, of the school leaders’ union NAHT, said four out of five of its members’ school were already providing £43.5million worth of items such as food, clothes and washing facilities to poorer children.

He said: “Education is undoubtedly a route out of long-term inter-generational poverty. Schools are proud of making this difference.

“But while children are in poverty, they also face barriers to education. Children do not learn as well if they are hungry or distressed.”

Mr Hobby’s concerns were shared by Tobias Melia, headteacher of Our Lady Queen of Heaven School, Langley Green, and Dawn Martin, headteacher of Gossops Green Primary.

Mr Melia said Our Lady had been working with the Crawley St Vincent de Paul Society since 2013 to support families who were struggling financially. He added: “With reduced budgets across the public sector, schools are increasingly being asked to support in areas not traditionally the remit of educators.”

One such area saw the school taking on its own key workers to support “vulnerable children” due to cutbacks in Primary Mental Health funding across West Sussex.

Mrs Martin said teachers had a “moral imperative” to ensure children with challenging home lives had their needs met; and she questioned whether people could function effectively if those practical and emotional needs were not being met.

She added: “Today’s schools spend a great deal of time and money trying to remove practical and emotional barriers to learning.

“Some children are lucky enough to be born into families which are able to provide a wide range of opportunities and enriched, vibrant experiences which create confident, resilient learners. Those children will thrive and be successful whatever life throws at them.

“Others are less fortunate.”

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