We have a problem

Almost six-in-10 teachers reported encountering pupils who are left hungry through lack of food at least once a week, it was revealed.

OK, a problem.

Research by the union also found that many teachers have seen a rise in the number of children on free meals at their school.

So it\’s a problem we\’ve already solved then, yes?

Excellent, on to the next one then.

24 comments on “We have a problem

  1. “Research also shows that teachers increasingly fear high youth unemployment will leave their pupils facing a future on the dole.”

    But surely our comprehensive schools are turning out better-educated youngsters year on year, aren’t they?

    So…how could this possibly be?

    *removes tongue from cheek*

  2. You realize that in general the free school meal mentioned is lunch, and the kids coming to school are hungry because they haven’t had breakfast, right? Or they go home and there’s no dinner.

    Existing state benefits certainly provide adequate funds for parents to feed their children, but can’t actually ensure that parents are competent.

  3. A few years ago, some scnools were providing breakfast for their pupils. What happened to those schemes?

  4. Jesus, you guys in your Ivory Towers. Apparently when the government introduces its UC, a couple of hundred thousand children will no longer qualify for free school meals, thus exacerbating the problem not solving it.

    Some people have to live in the real world, you know, live hand to mouth, struggle to make ends meet?

    No, I didn’t think you’d understand (or give a shit)

  5. The leftist sees deprived children in our wealthy society, and thinks that the children are not to blame.

    The rightist sees impoverished parents failing to care adequately for their children, and thinks that giving the parents money for their children tends to encourage them to have more children.

    And they are both right. Now what?

  6. I’ve got a teenage son and he’s frequently hungry. Because he’s stayed in bed and not had time for breakfast. Because I’ve dared to be late back from work so dinner is at 8 not 7. Because he’s a bloody teenage male and they’re permanently starving. Etc.

    Apparently when the government introduces its UC, a couple of hundred thousand children will no longer qualify for free school meals, thus exacerbating the problem not solving it.

    So all the councils, who are responsible for the provision of free school meals, need to do is to change the qualifying criteria. Delink it from central government benefits entitlement. Not hard. But then, that wouldn’t allow the legion lefty to claim “evil baby-starving Tories”, would it?

    And, yes, I do give “a shit”.

  7. The rightist sees impoverished parents failing to care adequately for their children, and thinks that giving the parents money for their children tends to encourage them to have more children.

    And the cynic sees that giving money to parents does not necessary lead to increased expenditure on children. But this has nothing to do with “free school meals”. Which aren’t money given to the parents.

  8. The larger issue here as I see it is that we (Society) have fundamentally screwed up by incentivising fuckwhits to have kids via the benefits system.
    Now we have myriad downstream problems to address. We can continue to tinker with these issues or we can address the root cause.

    But will the left (BBC, Guardian, Labour party) allow any sensible debate on this? God no… See CiF where half the commenter’s seem to honestly believe that Tory’s eat babies for breakfast.

    So, starving kids, abused kids, underperforming kids is the outcome.

    Now it’s just a matter of how much tax the private sector can be soaked for before it all comes crashing down around our ears.

  9. @Seth: ‘Jesus, you guys in your Ivory Towers. Apparently when the government introduces its UC, a couple of hundred thousand children will no longer qualify for free school meals, thus exacerbating the problem not solving it.’

    Seth, fuck off, will you.

    I’ve seen plenty of these kids, first hand, and they may be hungry but their mums are rarely without a fag, and their mums’ boyfriends (rarely their dads – could there be any kid of link here, Seth? Could there be? D’ya think?) are rarely without a can of Stella and a spliff as they lounge in front of Sky watching their 52-fucking-inch-plasma-fucking-telly (the spliff being hastily stubbed out when you go round to visit them, in the house the rest of us are paying for, natch).

    Just fucking fuck off.

  10. @PaulB: ‘The leftist sees deprived children in our wealthy society, and thinks that the children are not to blame.
    The rightist sees impoverished parents failing to care adequately for their children, and thinks that giving the parents money for their children tends to encourage them to have more children.
    And they are both right. Now what?

    Announce that one year from this date, council houses for single mums will end, and that if any existing child is found to be going hungry (properly, as opposed to in the sense in which most rent-seeking bleeding hearts mean it) that child will be taken away from its parents; additionally, the parents’ benefits will immediately be stopped, and they will be kicked out of their free housing. If they’re working, they will be fined the money they should have been spending on food for their children for the next year(ish) and fauilure to pay the fine will result in jail.
    I guess some sort of workhouse/Premier Inn would need to be made available to avoid them being literally on the streets, but it would be strictly gruel only.
    We’d also have to do something about the care homes, but that’s a different question.

  11. Umm. Tim, I don’t think there is necessarily a correlation between eligibility for free school meals and kids not bringing food or money for lunch. So no, we haven’t solved the problem of parents who aren’t on benefits giving higher priority to buying fags and lottery tickets than providing their kids with lunch. And we haven’t solved the problem of idiot teenagers spending their lunch money on clothes and gadgets (I know they do, I work with teenagers!), or simply forgetting their lunch money. I normally keep a stock of bananas and biscuits to feed teenagers who are in danger of keeling over from low blood sugar in their lessons because they haven’t eaten enough that day.

  12. I agree with Frances above. The Standard had something recently about police giving food to shoplifting children. And I’ll have a slightly more bleeding heart liberal attempt than Interested’s “Modest Proposal” at answering Paul B’s question.

    1. Breakfast provided at school. (Don’t really know if this should be for everyone, or voluntary. If you made it voluntary and/or before school, the children who need it most might not get there in time – what happened when it was tried?)

    2. Voluntary homework clubs for about an hour with sandwiches/bananas/left overs from Pret provided. (Don’t know if you get the sarnies at the end as a reward, or at the beginning so they can concentrate.) The hope is that the kids who had the least to eat or who had poor conditions for doing homework would be the ones who stayed on so it’s vaguely means tested. The obvious risk is that it would be the swotty ones or those with pushy middle class parents.

    I reckon the main costs would be teachers’/supervisers’ pay. It doesn’t take control from parents. Any better (non-Swiftian) ideas?

  13. @Luke ‘And I’ll have a slightly more bleeding heart liberal attempt than Interested’s “Modest Proposal” at answering Paul B’s question.’

    I think you’re missing the point here Luke.

    There are really two kinds of hungry: where it’s a serious problem and where it isn’t.

    In respect of introducing compulsory school breakfast because if it was voluntary ‘children who need it most might not get there in time’: if they don’t show up but could, they’re obviously not hungry enough.

    If they are *properly* hungry – the distinction I made – but don’t show up or are ravenous when they do, then they are being malnourished, and something a bit more serious needs doing for them than simply making toast available.

    (Hence my more radical suggestion. There is nothing ‘bleeding heart liberal’ about allowing kids to stay with people who are starving them.)

    As for: ‘Voluntary homework clubs… The obvious risk is that it would be the swotty ones or those with pushy middle class parents.’

    Oh, this shit – no offence – really fucks me off.

    Why is this a ‘risk’? I’m a pushy parent of reasonably swotty kids; I am fucking sick to death of hearing how people like me and my kids are somehow a problem.

  14. Most of the above seem to accept that the schools should be ‘in loco parentis’. Schools should be schools and we should complain if they, individually or together, fail to educate our children. School lunch should be simple, healthy and sufficient only to see the child through an afternoon of study (games now being competitive and, thus, illegal).
    Educating parents? That was the responsibility of the wonderful school system we enjoyed in the ’70s and 80’s. But a proper dose of education might just begin to swing the pendulum back in the child’s favour.

  15. Interested – You’re right that there’s no need to be snide about hardworking children and parents who care about education.

    “if they don’t show up but could, they’re obviously not hungry enough” – parents who, probably through a mixture of fecklessness and (relative if you insist) poverty aren’t giving them breakfast now probably wouldn’t get them to school early. But, as I said originally, I’d consider voluntary as rough and ready means testing.

    As for the rest, I doubt we’ll agree. I’m not keen on sending thousands of children into care and I’m not trying to solve the genuine problem of incentives for unskilled young women. Getting their children enough to eat so they can concentrate in school is enough for one blog post.

  16. @Seth ‘Interested, might I suggest you enrol for anger management classes?’

    If you’re going to make stupid comments about ivory towers then don’t be surprised when you’re told to shove them up your arse.

    As SE states, simply giving more cash to the parent(s) isn’t going to solve this issue. In our society a starving child is probably a sign of abuse or neglect rather than a mass of families unable to feed themselves.

  17. Why do we have free school dinners at all? Why not just transfer the couple of quid a day to parents and let them decide if it’s worth doing or whether to do a packed lunch.

  18. @Luke:

    ‘Interested – You’re right that there’s no need to be snide about hardworking children and parents who care about education.’

    Thanks, no offence taken though really.

    ‘“if they don’t show up but could, they’re obviously not hungry enough” – parents who, probably through a mixture of fecklessness and (relative if you insist) poverty…’

    I do insist it’s relative, I’m afraid. People who have their rent and council tax paid, who get free health care, free education for their kids, free money and various others bits and pieces, and who can afford to smoke and drink and all the rest, *simply are not poor*.

    ‘…aren’t giving them breakfast now probably wouldn’t get them to school early. But, as I said originally, I’d consider voluntary as rough and ready means testing.’

    So your solution is to attempt to compel, at goodness-knows-what-cost, *all* kids to attend school for a free breakfast, in order to catch the few who are not fed properly by their parents, and who in many cases may well not attend the ‘compulsory’ breakfasts either?

    Apart from the fact that breakfast is the only time I get to see my kids outside weekends, and you’ve just taken that away from me, I wonder when (I’m sure) entirely well-meaning people such as yourself are going to realise that you cannot solve the problems of human nature by central diktat.

  19. Seth, thanks but I’m not really that angry – this is the internet.

    My own life almost couldn’t be better; a bit more cash, a bit more time, but I’m basically personally happy.

    I just feel very sorry for the kids I see kicking around my local town, many of whom I have to deal with in my professional capacity.

  20. Interested -“relative” – I think we agree on that. If these parents were v. self-disciplined and organised, they’ve got enough to give their kids balanced if dull diets. We’re talking about those who aren’t. I doubt their children are starving – just not getting as much as they should and when they should, partly through lack of cash, partly ‘cos their parents can’t be arsed to get up and give them breakfast.

    Your solution involves prison for thousands, mass care orders, legal proceedings against the feckless (yes, of course they’ll pay fines) and workhouses. You then say that my proposal (toast, possibly for all, ideally for those who most want it) involves vast expense. Hmm

  21. @Luke

    Your proposal would see every school in the country paying dozens of staff to work longer (and probably employing more because on European Working Time directives).

    Plus heat and power in every school. Plus school buses working earlier and more expensively.

    For ever.

    Mine involves removing the incentives. It would be expensive for a while, sure, though I think yours would cost more.

    In the long term, it would be vastly cheaper.

  22. Interested

    Since breakfast is routinely skipped by the majority of teenagers and quite a few younger children too, to the detriment of their powers of concentration, I happen to think schools providing free breakfast to all would be a damn good thing and considerably more useful than free school meals to a minority who, as you rightly point out, are not really poor anyway given the levels of other benefits they receive. School days start early – every school I know is open by 8 am – and you are only talking about providing toast and cereal. I work at a number of secondary schools and in every one of them the canteen is open for breakfast, and guess what they provide? Yup, toast and cereal. So no extra costs of school buses, caretaking, catering staff etc. The only cost would be the food itself.

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