Sunday 24 June 2018

Homeless students 'seriously struggling' in classrooms as teachers call for additional support

19pc have low to moderately low attitudes to
19pc have low to moderately low attitudes to "perceived learning capability". Stock Image
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Homeless children are struggling in school, a primary teachers’ leader told Education Minister Richard Bruton today.

About  3,755 children are now homeless across Ireland and recent figures show 500 became homeless in February, the biggest increase since records began

That translated in 35 pupils becoming homeless every two days during the month, Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) general secretary Sheila Nunan said.

Ms Nunan said it was the equivalent of more than an entire primary school class.

She said the particular impact of homelessness on children was a big concern of teachers as the lack of a proper and stable home impacted on access to school could undermine their entire education.

And she strongly criticised the lack of response from the Department of Education and Skills.

“Schoolchildren who are homeless are seriously struggling in school while their teachers struggle to help them to cope,”  she said in her keynote address to the INTO annual conference.

Addressing Mr Bruton, who started his round of teacher union conferences at the INTO, she demanded:  “What will it take? A classroom of children every day?”

She called for additional resources to support homeless children in school and also demanded advice and guidance

“Teachers are waiting for the Department to recognise that homelessness is an educational crisis too,” she said

On the broader front Ms Nunan called for a major public housing building programme, led by local authorities, delivering a minimum of 10,000 new homes annually over the next five years.

She said there should be some housing prioritisation for essential service workers particularly in the major urban centres.

“If you want teachers in Dublin in the near future,” she told the Minister, “then affordable housing has to be a priority.”

She also called for greater levels of protection for tenants and an end to evictions to nowhere.

Ms Nunan said the housing crisis was impacting on the living standards of working people  and putting untold pressure on incomes, with 27pc  of disposable income going on rent in some areas.

“Many teachers are acutely affected by this crisis, especially those on lower salaries attempting to get on the property ladder,” she said.

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