“More than 40% of parents with primary school children have had to forgo basic hygiene or cleaning products because they cannot afford them, according to a study.
A survey of 2,000 parents by charity In Kind Direct also found some 18% admitted their child wears the same underwear for at least two days in a row.
The charity, which was founded by the Prince of Wales, said teachers are seeing soaring numbers of young children who turn up to school unwashed and in dirty clothes.
Almost half (47%) of 100 primary school teachers polled said children have attended class without brushing their teeth, while nearly two thirds (63%) have seen youngsters in unclean clothes. More than a third (36%) said they have provided toothpaste, while 29% claimed to have given children soap, and 27% said they provided head lice products or bought pupils a toothbrush.
Nicola Finney, head teacher at St Paul’s Church of England Primary School in Stoke on Trent, which receives products from In Kind Direct, said staff are considering installing a washing machine.
She said: “We now make allowances in our very tight school budget to make sure we can buy personal hygiene and washing items, such as toiletries, washing powder and toothpaste, as well as spare uniforms, shoes and deodorant, because we know increasing numbers of families simply can’t afford to buy them.”
Ms Finney said she has spent hundreds of pounds of her own money buying items for students. She added: “We have seen significantly more children coming into school with washing and hygiene issues over the last few years.
“It used to be just a couple of children across the school, but now there are two or three in every classroom dealing with these issues. “I’ve spoken to teachers across the country and they are doing the same as us. “We want all of our pupils to get the best outcomes, not just those that can afford the basic essentials to keep themselves and their clothes clean and presentable.”
The charity survey found more than a quarter (26%) of parents said their children have to wear the same shirt or blouse for at least a week, while almost one in five (19%) admitted they cannot afford to wash their offspring’s clothes as often as they would like.
Some 14% said they have struggled to afford soap and shampoo, while 43% admitted they had to forgo basic hygiene or cleaning products because they cannot afford them.
Robin Boles, In Kind Direct chief executive, said: “The results of our latest study are a shocking reflection of the growing scale of family hygiene poverty across the UK. “Teachers are increasingly being relied upon to step in to provide pupils with everyday essential products because their parents simply can’t afford to make ends meet. “Alongside this, we have seen a sharp rise in the number of people who are increasingly relying on support from the charities across the UK to which we supply products. “It is clear that hygiene poverty is hitting families hard and is having a huge impact on children’s wellbeing at school.
“No child’s education and future life chances should be compromised because of the stigma they face, simply because their families can’t afford the hygiene products to keep themselves clean.”