Homelessness holding kids back, says teacher

Homeless children, photo by Eflon (Creative Commons)

Homeless children, photo by Eflon (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

A delegate at the National Union of Teachers conference

In March, I sat with one of my students as he described with glee that he had moved into a new home. He showed me photographs of his new home, and talked about how he could now fly his remote-control helicopter in his living room.

A month ago he was a completely different child.

He lived in one room with his family in a hostel. A hostel that provided nothing: not enough beds, no cooking facilities, and washing facilities that were shared among many families. Every day he arrived late as he had to travel across the city to school.

Incredibly hard

Despite the conditions he has been living in, he always smiles. But he has found it incredibly hard to cope with school. Learning has not been important as his priorities have been led by basic needs.

In the past month, since being rehoused, he has made more progress than he made in the previous six months. He has started to speak more confidently, and read and write.

As teachers, we know that if children are living in poverty and deprivation, it will adversely affect their mental health and in turn their learning. In this data-driven education system, this is one thing that can be measured.

But we are told this is irrelevant, and all children in primary school should be working at the same level. It’s crazy.

There is an increasing number of children in exactly the same position in my school. In Labour-run Coventry, in the last year, 290 homes were repossessed. The Citizens’ Advice Bureau has recorded a 100% rise in enquiries on homelessness.

Many of these will have been from families with school-age children. The main reasons for this, according to Citizens’ Advice, are the changes to benefits and benefit sanctions. Many cannot pay rent or mortgages to stay in their homes.


We need to highlight homelessness in the same way as we have highlighted the use of food banks in Coventry.

The publication of the numbers of our children and families living with constant transience and homelessness should shame this government in exactly the same way.

We need to fight the cuts locally, whoever they are carried out by. Cuts that are removing homelessness support services – the last line of support for many families.

We need to shame the landlords that are profiting from this situation, and evicting our families. Shame the banks that are repossessing homes.

We need to defend those who face eviction.

We need to demand that all our children have a right to safety, to a home and to an education that is not fractured because of Tory or Blairite policy.