LONDON, April 2 (Xinhua) -- The plight of schoolkids living in poverty in 21st century Britain was highlighted Monday as schoolteachers told of their experiences on the frontline in schools in poorer areas.
A survey of 900 teachers revealed 60 percent of them saying child poverty in schools had worsened since 2015, with one in three saying the problem had got significantly worse, the annual conference of the National Education Union (NEU) was told in Brighton.
The Guardian newspaper reported how headteachers from schools in deprived areas say they are having to provide basic services such as washing school uniforms for pupils from poor households, and are even paying for budget advice and counselling services for parents.
A number of school leaders said at the conference they had noticed a visible difference in health and stature between children from their schools in deprived areas and those from better-off areas.
One headteacher from a school in Cumbria in northern England said she was shocked to witness the differences between former pupils from her school and those from other primary schools.
"My children, who have gone from me up to the local secondary school, have grey skin, poor teeth, poor hair, poor nails. They are smaller, they are thinner," she said.
"At sporting events, you see your children in the year group compared to other children in an affluent area and you think: our kids are really small. When you see them with children of the same age who are from an affluent area, they just look tiny."
Louise Regan, head of a primary school in Nottinghamshire, said: "We have a food bank, so we give out food parcels, particularly on Fridays, we buy clothing, we do a lot of buying, particularly coats in winter and shoes. We've had children who haven't come to school because they didn't have shoes."
Jane Jenkins, headteacher of an inner-city primary school in Cardiff, the capital city of Wales, said: "Poverty on paper seems to be getting better but the reality is completely the reverse, poverty is just becoming more and more extreme."
Mondays were often the worst days at some schools, conference delegates said, with children arriving in school hungry and tired after a weekend with little food.
The experiences of teachers back up a new survey carried out by the NEU in association with the Child Poverty Action Group.
NEU official Celia Dignam, responsible for child poverty issues, said the union's survey revealed 4.1 million children are living in poverty.
Dignam said: "Schools are now a safety net, particularly for children in poverty," added that the Institute for Fiscal Studies had estimated that by 2021 5 million children in Britain would be living in poverty.
In a statement the Department for Education said: "We continue to support the most disadvantaged children through free school meals, the 2.5 billion pound (3.5 billion U.S. dollars) funding given to schools through the pupil premium to support their education, and the recently announced 26 million pounds (37 million U.S. dollars) investment to kickstart or improve breakfast clubs in at least 1,700 schools."