A TEACHING union wants more details on measures to prevent Fife schoolchildren feeling “ashamed or stigmatised by poverty”. 

While Fife EIS are fully behind moves to tackle inequality in the classroom, they’ve questioned how some of the proposals will actually work. 

Spokesman David Farmer said they supported the idea of “poverty-proofing” but said: “We still need to see more details. 

“I understand people have been trained so how that will be rolled out across schools and where are the resources, because poverty-proofing costs money? 

“At a time when education budgets are stretched and there are cuts, we’d like hard information about where the money is coming from.”

A council report highlighted kids that couldn’t afford school uniforms, prom outfits, school trips, sports equipment, school clubs, events or even basic equipment such as pens, pencils, books and calculators, had feelings of missing out that could lead to a “greater risk of mental and physical illness”. 

As reported in the Press earlier this month, parents and pupils have helped the council draw up a list of top tips and guidance to address cost of school day issues. 

They include uniform swap shops/clothing banks, discouraging ‘labels’ and dress-down days, gifted or cost-reduced leavers’ hoodies, more free clubs and more work on costly school trips.

A ‘Poverty Matters’ training programme has also been developed with sessions for staff, parents and pupils.

However, Mr Farmer said: “I don’t think schools are in the best position to address poverty issues, that’s really for the Scottish Government and, to a lesser extent, the council to do. 

“But there are things that create problems that schools can do something to obviate. 

“Proms and expensive foreign trips, you question whether they’re including all the kids at the school because there will be some that just can’t afford it. 

“And if you look at uniforms, as a union we understand why schools do uniform swap shops but you’ll have kids saying that’s going about in someone’s cast-off clothes and I’m not sure that sends the right message to kids. If they’re going to assist on uniforms, can they try and organise deals to make them cheaper so low-income families can afford them?” 

He continued: “Another example is the breakfast and lunch clubs. Our members volunteer to help out in them and they’re great. 

“In the school holidays, they’re starting to offer that too and that’s brilliant, but if there’s no free transport for kids to get from their home to the school, how do they get there for their meal? 

“Not all of these kids live in easy walking distance of the school they attend, and for the high schools, geographically, their catchments can be very large.”

Councillor Fay Sinclair, convener of the education and children’s services committee, said there was a “huge amount of work being done” and good examples of schools trying to ease the financial burden on families. 

Inverkeithing High has set up an exchange of materials for practical subjects like art or design and manufacture while Queen Anne High runs a swap shop for uniforms where pupils raised funds to buy a washing machine and have the shop fitted out professionally.

And, while many schools have capped the cost of school trips, Lynburn Primary has introduced a donation scheme rather than a fixed cost. 

Queen Anne have also introduced criteria for timescales of trips and payment periods. 

She said: “We don’t want any of our children to feel excluded or ashamed or stigmatised by poverty.”