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Rising food poverty hinders students' ability to learn

The IPPN said primary school students are faced with new forms of disadvantages including losing their homes, cyber-bullying and early sexualisaton.

Image: School students image via Shutterstock

FOOD POVERTY IS hindering some primary school pupils’ ability to learn basic literacy and numeracy, according to the Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN).

In his speech at the organisation’s annual conference today, IPPN President Gerry Murphy said the incidence of food poverty is rising, with as many as one in five principals surveyed reporting that more pupils are arriving to school hungry.

Other conditions from which more pupils are suffering include depression, emotional disturbance, attention disorders, violent behaviour and family trauma, according to IPPN’s surveys of primary school leaders.

Murphy described food poverty as a “worrying function of the recession”, and urged policy-makers to better understand the link between learning and physical and mental wellbeing.

“In concentrating on the three Rs – reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmitic – we can neglect the new fourth ‘R’ in education – relationships,” he said. “Our children’s ability to form and sustain relationships, manage conflict, build self-confidence, and develop interpersonal and problem-solving skills is fundamental to their physical and emotional wellbeing and their development as human beings.”

He also said children are faced with complex social challenges, with new forms of disadvantage affecting their school experience, including middle-class families losing their homes, cyber-bullying, early sexualisation, and parental drug and alcohol abuse.

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