Children in school with bed bugs - how poverty is affecting education of youngsters in Leeds

“We are Leeds, we are better than this”.

Friday, 20th September 2019, 20:10 pm
Poverty can have a direct impact on a child's education.

That’s the call from an assistant headteacher in an inner city Leeds primary school as she prepares another “Bed Bundle” for children with nowhere else to turn.

This is not a new name for lesson planning or school work.

This is literally a bed, mattress and duvet and a pair of pyjamas for a Leeds child who doesn’t have one.

Poverty can have a direct impact on a child's education.

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Instead some are sleeping on the floor, the sofa and even in the bath with a cushion, it has been claimed.

As part of the Yorkshire Evening Post’s City Divided series, here Emma Ryan looks at the growing gap of life in Leeds for children.

Bed Bugs

Problems at home can affect school performance and results.

He told her it was because he and his little brother slept on a cushion that was infested with bed bugs.

In the two years since then, Zarach has handed out 387 bed bundles, taking around eight referrals per week.

Mrs Wilson said: “He did not have a bed but the shock factor for me was not that. It was that there were no options that we could turn to to change that and get him a bed by the end of the week.”

It may be happening out of school but the effects poverty has on education is a major factor in the long run on the growing social inequality gap in the city of Leeds.

Coun Jonathan Pryor is the Leeds City Councils lead member for education.

Today the YEP’s City Divided aims to highlight the growing gap of life in Leeds between the most affluent and deprived. One which Prime Minister Boris Johnston claims can be solved within a decade.The teacher added: “When children don’t sleep they are late, attendance is poor, they get distracted in class, angry and irritable because they are hungry and tired and just don’t learn as well.

“We live in Leeds, it is a great place, but we are better than this. Why can’t we have a system, it does not matter about politics, that helps a child without a bed.

“I grew up in LS9, I have seen it, lived it, worked in it and it shocks me that it is still so real when you walk into people’s homes.”


Home and family background has a huge effect on the development and future prospects for children, says Leeds City Council’s lead member for education, Coun Jonathan Pryor.

Speaking to the YEP, he said: “Young people spend 15 per cent of their time in school – what is going on for that other 85 per cent of the time has a massive impact on education.

“Some parents help with home-work, extra-curricular stuff or encourage reading - all these things can be incredibly helpful. But, if that parent works two to three low paid jobs on a zero contract, is not around as much and when they are, they are too tired from all those jobs, they can’t give children the same level of attention. Some children have a tough start compared to others.”

Further to that he says that a ‘chaotic’ home-life also impacts a child’s development in that they may not have the right physical environment to sleep, do homework or read and this is echoed by Mrs Wilson who recalls a house in Leeds that she visited that had ten children, one of whom was pregnant, mum and dad in a four-bedroom property.

Breakfast Club

One of the drives Leeds City Council has to improve education results is with breakfast clubs which have a two-fold benefit.

As well as providing children with a quality breakfast of toast, cereals and fruit, which they might not otherwise get at home and helps prepare them for the day ahead, it means that children are more likely to attend school and on time.

Coun Pryor said: “Breakfast clubs work. They give children food they are not getting at home, they can concentrate, if they go to a breakfast club before school starts, they will be at school on time and ready for learning.

“We have had attendance as one of the council’s assessments for one or two years. As we push the message, ‘if you are not in school, you will not learn’, we have seen attainment increase year or year and pass national rates so we are doing something right.”