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Hungry, unwashed children fill our schools – how has it come to this?

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According to a survey from the headteachers’ union, the Association of School and College Leaders, schools have become “an unofficial fourth emergency service” for the families worst affected by austerity across England and Wales.

A majority of the 400 school leaders surveyed said schools were increasingly forced to help pupils, despite less help from councils, and have had to cut budgets. Schools are helping with food parcels, equipment, shoes and hygiene – nine out of 10 give out clothes, while nearly half do laundry for them. Some are running impromptu food banks or sourcing beds.

How could it not be a source of national shame that there are food banks in any schools in England and Wales? When did it become normal for schools to wash pupils’ clothes? As for anyone wishing to start ranting about parents sitting, smoking, with cans of lager, in front of wide-screen televisions – spare me. Wasn’t it precisely these Tory cartoons of the unemployed and low-income workers that gave austerity measures credibility in the first place? That fake standoff between “striver” and “skiver” (remember that?) pitted people against each other, when, in truth, they had all too much in common.

While it’s just one survey, it’s far from a one-off – schools keep trying to speak up about how much they’re helping pupils. It’s happening on too large a scale for it to be dismissed as straightforward parental failure. Pupils have come to this because they reflect the reduced circumstances of their families – they are merely the school-aged manifestation of peak-impact austerity. Swaths of the population have been crushed to the point where basics (food, clothes, heating, hot water) have........

© The Guardian