Primary schools across Scotland are seeing more than one-third of pupils turn up for class in the morning without having eaten, a poll of teachers suggests.

Seven in ten survey participants said the situation was so bad they had bought food and snacks for children.

The figures, which were gathered last month by Perspectus Global on behalf of the Arla dairy cooperative, are the latest sign of relentless cost pressures bearing down on families. They are also likely to spark concern for disadvantaged learners in P6-7 after a pledge to extend free school meals to all primary pupils from next month was delayed.

Bosses at Arla are now working with the charity Magic Breakfast in a bid to secure improvement, reports The Herald. 

Andrea Doughty, Magic Breakfast school liaison manager, said: “It’s truly devastating that the number of children requiring support at breakfast time is only growing. 

“Whether that be because of financial pressures or lack of government guidance, we need to join forces and come together to provide these children with the support for their growth and fuel their learning.”

As part of the survey, 500 UK primary teachers - 50 of them in Scotland - supplied views on a range of issues linked to hunger and diet.

They were asked to consider their current class and say what percentage of pupils they think come to school without having eaten breakfast. An average was then calculated based on the answers, with a figure of 36 per cent recorded for respondents north of the Border. 

The Scottish data also showed that 71% had brought food and snacks for learners using their own money, while 90% think pupils start to flag by mid-morning as a result of not eating. Seventy-six per cent warned that children who had not eaten tended to become moody and 67% said they got upset more easily.

When asked for their thoughts on what might be causing the increase in hungry pupils, eighty-six per cent blamed the cost of living crisis. Eighty-one per cent said the price of food was so high that families were struggling to put meals on the table.
Danny Micklethwaite, from Arla, said: “Our research shows that plenty of children are going to school hungry and it’s devastating that these cases are only growing. 

“We believe that every child should have a good breakfast which provides them with the essential nutrients they need to grow and fuel their learning, which is why our partnership with Magic Breakfast is so important.”

The survey adds to rapidly accumulating evidence of a squeeze on family incomes.
Analysis released previously by the children’s charity Aberlour found more than £1 million was owed by Scottish families unable to pay for school meals. It also highlighted reports that some pupils are not eating and instead returning lunch money so parents can cover household bills. 

Charity bosses stressed the study, which was carried out by Professor Morag Treanor from the Institute of Social Policy, Housing, Equalities Research at Heriot-Watt University, had underlined a “worrying” increase in hidden hunger.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “No child should go hungry at school. We continue to work with local authorities to plan for the expansion of free school meals.

“All pupils in primary one to five at publicly funded schools now benefit from universal free school lunches during term-time, as well as eligible pupils within other age groups, saving families on average £400 per child per year. We have also provided local authorities with £21.75 million to deliver free school meals during the school holidays for eligible families on the basis of low income. 

“In addition, ministers remain committed to increasing the Scottish Child Payment to £25 a week, as well as extending the benefit to all those under 16 by the end of this year to help tackle child poverty and the rising cost of living."