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New research highlights the extent to which families rely on schools for ‘basic needs’

University College London (UCL) has released new findings highlighting how schools are propping up the welfare state

The UCL’s briefing report includes in-depth interviews from 50 parents and staff across seven schools around England and found that schools serving populations with high levels of poverty shouldered a significantly higher burden in addressing problems relating to food insecurity and housing.

The research found that more families turned to schools as an important source of support during the Covid crisis. Among the issues schools reported dealing with included: children in need of food and clothing; families living in inadequate housing with inadequate space and resources to maintain learning at home; families with limited digital connectivity; individual pupils facing mental health crises and children experiencing difficult domestic circumstances, including domestic violence.

Report co-author, Professor Gemma Moss said: “We know Covid-19 has directly and indirectly affected schools and families in very different ways. Communities where children were already living in poverty but also those where families suddenly faced new financial distress due to Covid have been very badly hit.

“Funding offered through Pupil Premium does not cover or adequately reflect the work schools do to support children living in poverty or struggling with difficult issues at home. That families are so reliant on schools highlights fundamental weaknesses in our current welfare system that urgently need repair.”