Column: Talking Politics with Holly Lynch MP - Schools are the fourth emergency service in this cost of living crisis
The Government continues to miss its own recruitment targets and schools are struggling to retain teachers, with almost a third of newly qualified teachers leaving the profession in the first five years.
Yet as other support services which once existed for families have been cut and the cost of living continues to bite, schools are having to take on more and more responsibilities just to keep children and their families from desperate poverty.
I recently raised this directly with the Prime Minister at PMQs. I shared the case of Izzy, a Halifax mum who was followed by the ITV documentary Life and Debt. Her pre-payment energy bills have tripled and she is relying on Ash Green Primary school in Mixenden to provide free school breakfasts, budget cooking classes and even a hardship fund. When the presenter asked Mungo Sheppard the Head Teacher of Ash Green if he worries about the children and their families when he goes home at night, he says ‘All the time, it never really leaves you.’ It’s heart-breaking.
I asked the Prime Minister if he thought it was right that schools were having to become the fourth emergency service for the families they support, adding to workload of already stretched teaching staff.
The proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals is growing, rising from 13.6 per cent five years ago to 22.5 per cent in the last academic year. Ministers must dedicate themselves to tackling the scourge of child poverty. It is not right that so many children are coming to school hungry, which is why Labour’s plan to provide free breakfasts to primary school children is so crucial.
This will not only give them a healthy meal to start their day but will also allow parents to save money on childcare, boosting family finances and benefitting the economy. We have also been clear about our plans to end tax breaks for private schools which could raise £1.7bn to invest in new teachers, mental health councillors and careers advice across struggling schools.
We cannot go on with schools having to do so much work in communities with budgets and people so exhausted. Our children deserve better.