Inflation: 90% of schools providing uniforms to pupils, report shows

Almost 90% of schools in England are reporting providing uniforms and clothing to some pupils to tackle the impacts of cost-of-living pressures, according to a new report.

The report, which was produced by the National Foundation for Education Research (NFER), found more than 90% of primary, secondary and special schools are also subsidising extracurricular activities for some pupils. In addition, 70% of schools are providing food to pupils through food parcels, food banks, food vouchers and subsidised breakfasts.

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Around 85% of school leaders across all settings said that cost-of-living pressures have increased both the numbers of pupils requiring additional support and the level of need, particularly in the most disadvantaged schools.

According to senior leaders, the crisis is also exacerbating wellbeing and mental health needs among pupils. Over 25% of pupils in mainstream schools needed extra support for mental health and wellbeing this year, a significant increase from 2022. This is even higher in special schools, at over 40%.

Teachers feel unable to access the support they need from external agencies such as Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services (CYPMHS, formerly known as CAMHS) and schools are having to step in to fill gaps in support.

In the study, conducted in collaboration with ASK Research and funded by the Nuffield Foundation, NFER recently asked more than 2,500 senior leaders and teachers in mainstream schools, and more than 100 in special schools, a series of questions to understand the impacts of cost-of-living pressures on schools in England.

Findings show special schools and schools with greater numbers of disadvantaged pupils are providing the most overall support to pupils and families in response to the cost-of-living pressures.

However, it is not just children eligible for pupil premium who are receiving support. In over three-fifths of mainstream schools, leaders report that 50% or more of the pupils receiving additional support were pupils not eligible for pupil premium. This was true in around 42% of special schools.

NFER research director and report co-author, Jenna Julius, said: ‘The cost-of-living crisis is having a profound impact on pupils and families. Schools are providing unprecedented levels of urgent support. Pupils whose most basic needs are not being met – whether it is going to school hungry, or being unable to afford uniform or transport costs – are less likely to attend school and successfully engage with learning. “Without urgent action now there is a risk that the crisis will have far reaching and long-lasting impacts on pupils.’

Further findings from the report include:

  • Most school leaders report that increases in the cost-of-living have led to an increase in safeguarding concerns, behaviour incidents and absenteeism, particularly in secondary and more disadvantaged schools
  • Less than one-fifth of mainstream teachers and just under 24% of special school teachers feel supported by CYPMHS. Around half of mainstream teachers and 39% of special school teachers are less satisfied with this support compared to last year

The report called on the government to extend eligibility for free school meals, at the very least uprating the income threshold for eligibility to reflect inflationary pressures since 2018/19. It also called for additional support for families via the benefit system or additional cost-of-living payments, and longer-term improvements in children’s mental health services.

Image: Rhii Photography

More on this topic:

Two-child limit squeezing families in cost of living crisis, survey shows

Cost of living crisis preventing women from escaping abuse, report shows


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