Guest post: "I no longer assume my pupils have beds"
A report from Shelter shows 100,000 children will be homeless at Christmas, while councils feel the pressure of the housing shortage and more families live in B&Bs and temporary accommodation, says a primary school teacher
Primary school teacher
Posted on: Wed 02-Dec-15 13:40:12
(36 comments )
I experienced homelessness when I was a child. My mother died suddenly when I was seven and my brother and I were moved around a lot. We stayed with family and friends, we were put in temporary accommodation, and I changed primary school five times. It took me a long time to settle, and in that time I never really felt secure.
I'm now a teacher in London, and a mum. I have taught and supported a rapidly increasing number of children within homeless families. Thankfully these children aren't on the streets, but living in temporary accommodation means they don't have a stable, safe place to call home.
When you feel so insecure in where you live, it impacts on your relationships and on how you relate to other people. It not only makes children feel desperately sad, it affects their self-esteem so much that it's a huge barrier to them reaching their potential.
I once asked a boy - with poor attendance – where he lived, and he was so vague. He drew one room with sparse furniture. Everything was in one room. I said "Have you missed anything?" He said "No." I asked him: "But where is your bed?" And he looked at me and said "I don't have a bed, I sleep there." He pointed to a dot on the page where he was at night. That's when I first realised I could no longer assume children have beds.
I've had children who don't want it to be the weekend; who are really devastated when school holidays come. Some of the children at my school have expressed worries about feeling excluded, as a result of being new to yet another school with little or no understanding of what is being taught. They are often frustrated and sad. These emotions have a negative effect on their ability to succeed.
Homelessness not only makes children feel desperately sad, it affects their self-esteem so much that it's a huge barrier to them reaching their potential.
Looking around the school where I am today, the homeless children I teach aren't any less able than others. But their transient lifestyles mean they feel disengaged from education, and so their well-housed peers leap frog their progress.
I can relate to feeling excluded from the learning taking place within the classroom. I experienced feelings of frustration, resentment and sadness when my circumstances would not allow me to participate in school trips, complete homework or be on time for school. My behaviour suffered, and I was angry and lacking in confidence.
I remember being punished for my inability to complete homework, despite desperately wanting to do it. In my school now we provide free breakfast for those that need it, homework clubs, and often give school uniforms and book bags to children without them. For children whose parents are on a low income, who don't have a home computer or even the space to complete or concentrate on homework, these things are vital.
As teachers, we are going above and beyond to try to counteract the impact of the disruption. Children in homeless families are often forced to change schools and friends on a regular basis, which can affect their emotional wellbeing and confidence. Yet while teachers may have the knowledge and compassion to recognise the specific needs of homeless children, we only have limited resources to meet them. At times, we feel stuck - because there are pressures on us to get them to learn. But, it's not uncommon for children to fall asleep during lessons or ask if there is a place where they can sleep.
Families being moved to accommodation outside their borough will encounter longer travelling time to school, which can cause lateness and poor attendance. Disruption for children in temporary accommodation also means they miss on average 11 weeks of schooling annually. Some children going through housing issues may experience bullying and social exclusion.
The effects of homelessness on children can last a lifetime and cannot be underestimated. Unless children are given the equal educational opportunities that are so difficult for us to provide under these circumstances, this will lead to a disrupted and disadvantaged school career and future, which goes against all that teachers strive for and believe in.
This Friday, hundreds of schools will be taking part in Slippers for Shelter, with pupils and teachers wearing their slippers for the day to help raise money for the charity's emergency Christmas appeal for Britain's 100,000 homeless children.
Watch primary school teachers talk about homelessness in this Shelter film.
It's very sad to read this. Yet again, no human cost is considered too high if money can be saved.
So sad. I live in the south east and we have been homeless. We work but still had nowhere to live and the council couldn't/wouldn't help us. We did eventually find rented accommodation and have been here for three years but I live in fear of having to move again as i know we couldn't afford anything in the area now. I dread every letter or phone call from the landlord in case she puts our rent up and we can't afford it.
I try not to let it affect the children and I think they feel secure now that we have had stability for a few years but I know that it had a detrimental effect on my eldests GCSEs results (predicted a's before the homelessness but scraped C's) and I will forever feel guilty that I failed him at an important time in his life.
Catch 22, move area and have no jobs children change schools no family friends or stay where we were and have nowhere to live or a poor standard or accomadataion.
The area we live they are building hundreds and probably thousands of new homes but all well beyond my affordability. Very few local authority houses being bulky or affordable housing and the waiting list for la housing stands at something like 17yrs here. One of the worst outside of London.
I teach in a beautiful, very affluent area of NI. Regarded by many as utopia! Yet a number of years,ago I taught a boy with a multitude of problems including alcoholic parents who had been intimidated out of their previous home as they were from a mixed marriage. He came to school each day by taxi and would arrive early. He lived this time with me and his classroom assistant. One morning the three of us were alone in the room before school started and she asked him, jokingly, if he had gone to bed in his school shirt. He was a VERY bright boy and he said "if you mean did I sleep in it, the answer is yes. If you really mean 'go to bed'-then no". It turned out that the dog was sick in his bed the previous weekend, he tried to clean it but hadn't done a great job so was sleeping on the floor. (Dad was on the sofa!) And he went to sleep in his uniform because there was no one sober enough in the house who got him up. His 'alarm clock' was the taxi driver knocking the door! He was an amazing boy. And his parents adored him-I never doubted that. His social worker was brilliant that day! Above and beyond she went-& she managed to pull strings to keep him at home but with his older sister taking responsibility. I forget the details. But I've never forgotten the dog being sick in the bed and the very shrewd way he answered the question! Those little faces that look up at me as I read to them may be going home to all sorts of challenges!
Gosh such sad stories. These poor kids
This won't be popular but given this author isn't anonymous, nor are her pupils.
I am not sure I would be thrilled if it was me.
This is just appalling. We might as well be back in Victorian times.
Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.
that's just wrong Mummy linking to the bloggers school. Post reported.
Why is it wrong? She's not anonymous? Anyone can Google her and it's the first result you get for her name....
Good grief! Either she's allowed and right to speak out openly on this, or not?
Maybe her school should remove her details from their website?
The most appalling thing is that this situation exists. She is hardly naming anyone, is she?
She's being proactive and raising awareness – good for her.
I've read the Talk Guidelines Woodley and fail to see how my post linking to the teacher's school's website broke any of them....
Is it not relevant where (in London) she's talking about?
Lets not have this marvelous post derailed.
Stick to the issue.
I am glad she's sharing like this. It might shut some of the people on here up.....those who say "Oh poverty doesn't REALLY exist in the UK"
When it quite obviously does.
No its not relevant. If she felt it was relevant and needed identifying she would have named the area herself. Its in poor taste to try and out someone on a forum for their real life job. Yes anyone else can google and identify her easily enough I'm sure but to post a link on an internet forum is just wrong.
The point is, that if I had a child at this woman's school I would very probably know exactly which child(ren) she meant. That's embarrassing and upsetting.
I've no doubt this lady's heart is in the right place but it's not her anonymity she's waived but that of her students.
MN have changed to an anonymous poster, which is probably for the best.
I don't think this will prove to people that poverty exists in the UK. Sometimes its not even about poverty though. Its a lack of affordable housing or salaries too low to cover basic necessitates? I'm not sure which one needs to be changed or can be changed even.
bloody hell,every single thread on this site has moaners on it. Stop bloody moaning. Do you trawl threads looking for ways to put down posts and find fault with things? I guess you do the same in RL too. How tedious.
Makes me want to gather them all in my arms, give them food and a hot drink and a home. Completely irrational of course. But i often wish i could help in those kinds of ways.
Buttons, think for a minute how you'd feel if your child was in this lady's class and you were struggling. How embarrassing. Anyway, it's anonymous now - good call by mumsnet
I think there is a housing crisis: what are the solutions?
Moon probably to instigate another "Ten pound Pom" offer and give families cheap tickets to emigrate to Australia.
There would be many who'd love to go and Australia has the space.
While I don't think it was necessary to identify the poster's school, I also think there is no point in everyone getting in a twist about her being named in the blog. If you had googled the teacher's name, you would see that this issue was also picked up by the Mirror online a number of weeks ago and she was quoted saying the same thing there. If her school were going to have a problem with it, she'd have heard by now.
I hope you were joking, House.
"Parents weren't told the truth.
"Their children lost their real identities and were told they were orphans going on holiday to a place where the sun always shines.
"The policy was endorsed by Government of the day.
"It was cheaper."
This is a heartbreaking story, and needs to be heard. Thank you for posting, OP and notasgreen.
It is upsetting but not surprising. However, it reminds me of that saying "it takes a whole village to raise a child". How many of us notice a child struggling and invite him/her to a play date or do anything. Probably very few - as if poverty or whatever is catching. Sympathising is easy but it doesn't change anything.
Pullofthemoon: why is struggling embarrassing?
I think there is a housing crisis: what are the solutions?
The obvious solution is lots more public housing. Unfortunately we have a government that believes in taking assets and property out of public ownership, into private. It also believes meritocracy works: anyone can improve their own circumstances; those who don't, deserve punishment.
The punishment also falls on the children, naturally.