New school term ‘will highlight effects of homelessness’

Adverse psychological and educational outcomes may affect those in B&Bs and hotels

INTO assistant general secretary Peter Mullan refers to international evidence which shows that schoolchildren who are homeless struggle to do well in school and the experience can undermine their entire education.

INTO assistant general secretary Peter Mullan refers to international evidence which shows that schoolchildren who are homeless struggle to do well in school and the experience can undermine their entire education.

 

Homeless children are “living like refugees in their own country”, deprived of the ability to make choices about when they eat, and in many cases suffering high levels of anxiety about their parents’ health.

That is according to the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) which has backed a Focus Ireland campaign calling for help for homeless children.

Mark Candon, principal of St Laurence O’Toole’s primary school in Dublin’s north inner city, said typically homeless children as young as six years were deprived of the ability to play where they live, to bring friends back to where they live, or even to find space to do their homework.

The children were “disempowered” over what they ate, when they ate, and given their complex backgrounds usually suffered anxiety over a parent, knowing they were struggling to cope, he said.

In addition to this he recalled a single mother was given just 10 hours notice that her family was to be moved from her hotel, but she was not told where they were going.

The woman was concerned that it might be somewhere from where her children would not be able to afford bus fares to get back to the same inner-city school, he said. One child, he said, was in their third school in four years.

Homework clubs

He said St Laurence O’Toole’s school laid on homework clubs, hired buses to take pupils to sports facilities in soccer and GAA halls and other schools in a bid to keep the children from going back to a hotel room.

The INTO has now backed Focus Ireland’s call for the Minister for Education Richard Bruton “to design and deliver a package of supports for children from families who are homeless”.

More than 500 emails have been sent by members of the public to Mr Bruton and Focus Ireland and the INTO is urging people to add their voice to the campaign.

Gregor Kerr, an INTO activist in north inner city Dublin, said teachers were “really worried” about the longer term implications for children, the effects of which may not even be seen in primary school, but in later life.

Sleeping in class

The problem of homeless children sleeping in class was highlighted at the INTO’s annual conference earlier this year, when a motion deplored the fact that more than 2,500 children were homeless in Ireland and a further 1,500 were in direct provision centres, with more than 1,500 Traveller families currently living in overcrowded or unsafe conditions.

Writing in this week’s issue of the union’s magazine Intouch, INTO assistant general secretary Peter Mullan highlighted the effects of homelessness on education and encourage teachers to bring the issue to the attention of the Minister in advance of October’s budget.

In the article Mr Mullan refers to international evidence which shows that schoolchildren who are homeless struggle to do well in school and the experience can undermine their entire education – and their chances of fulfilling their potential.

“Without an adequate response from the Department of Education and Science, this short-term housing problem could have generation-long consequences”, he writes.