Larne teacher’s pupil poverty warning

Stephen McCord.
Stephen McCord.

Schools can’t fight pupil poverty on their own, a Larne teacher has warned.

Stephen McCord, a teacher at Larne High and a past president of the Ulster Teachers’ Union, was speaking this week as a leading charity claimed food poverty was a breach of human rights. Human Rights Watch published its report ‘Nothing Left in the Cupboards:Austerity, Welfare Cuts, and the Right to Food in the UK’.

Mr McCord’s comments also follow the Children’s Future Food Inquiry recommendations that schoolchildren in Northern Ireland receive a free portion of fruit or vegetables every day.

He said: “They also follow on the heels of figures from the End Child Poverty campaign which revealed that almost a quarter of children in this constituency area are living in poverty.

“None of this is any surprise to teachers as sadly we daily see the evidence in front of us when we hear children are coming to school hungry, with holes in their shoes, unable to afford to go on school trips, all the things everyone else takes for granted.

“As a teacher it’s hard to watch and we have always tried to help these families whenever we can but with so many other financial issues pressing on schools it’s becoming increasingly difficult and so it is these children who are suffering most.

“Families who are managing might find it hard to believe that pupils in their children’s class are coming to school hungry in this day and age but it is a fact.

“Teachers can only do so much. We can’t fight food poverty alone and we would ask for the funders to ensure this most vulnerable section of our school communities receives the support they deserve.”