Blog: What does homelessness and poor housing have to do with schools? Quite a lot actually

As temperatures continue to drop we start dreaming about Christmas dinner, Baileys by the fire & mulled wine! Or maybe that’s just me! For rough sleepers the colder weather marks the start of a grueling few months of trying to stay alive. Finding a safe, warm place becomes harder and harder. That’s why in Greater Manchester our Mayor Andy Burnham has launched “A Bed Every Night” with the ambition that no one sleeps rough in Greater Manchester.

Six million children in Britain live in housing that is overcrowded, temporary, or run-down. That figure is so huge that those of us without ‘mathematical brains’ like me struggle to comprehend that figure. Some of the children in our classrooms will live in housing that’s making them ill. Many are missing out on school altogether. I often talk about anxiety in my Mental Health work well imagine being shuffled from one place to another………that would make anyone have chronic insecurity which leads to anxiety.

Often homeless children are an invisible group, even child poverty doesn’t always touch us teachers because we don’t see the homes these children live in. We see them arrive at school sometimes without the right bag or pen but we don’t see the huge effort it’s taken for that child just to be in school dressed. They deserve better than this.


  • More foodbanks are being used now than ever before
  • More than one million children live in overcrowded housing.
  • More than 70,000 homeless children in England are living in temporary accommodation & in the NW 10,500 are officially homeless
  • Bad housing has a massive impact on children’s lives, affecting everything from their health and educational achievement, to their emotional well-being and overall life chances:
  • Health: children living in cramped accommodation experience disturbed sleep, poor diet, higher rates of accidents and infectious disease
  • Education: children from homeless households are more likely to suffer from bullying, unhappiness and stigmatisation
  • Emotional well-being: about half of the families taking part in one study conducted by Shelter said their children were frightened, insecure, or worried about the future as a result of their homelessness]
  • Life chances: The health and educational impact of poor housing may affect children’s future job prospects and financial well-being.
  • The impact of all of the above can be fatal if families become homeless or people start sleeping rough. One thing schools can do is work with children and young people to try and make sure those families are signposted to the right support and also just ‘be the family’ & shelter at school to give them that safe haven. All schools do this and most try their best to:


Primary & Secondary Schools

  • Create supportive, affirming and loving environments where children and young people feel safe, nurtured and supported and they are more likely to talk to you about struggles their parents might be having.
  • Remind staff about how to spot the signs of neglect or or housing instability.
  • Connect students to in-school and community support services. Coordinate with mental and physical health service providers as well as housing agencies to meet the needs of children and their families to the greatest extent practicable.
  • Consider- what may look like lack of attention or concentration may be due to hunger or lack of sleep. Providing free breakfasts club can help ensure nobody goes hungry while trying to learn
  • Volunteer- Many shelters and day centres need volunteer to help, especially over evenings and weekends. Although you have to be over 18 in most cases, perhaps students’ parents or extended families may be interested.
  • You can also volunteer by way of fundraising or donations. For example, schools can make things to help make a house a home for people who have nothing.
  • Make picture frames in woodwork. Wall hangings in art class, healthy and cheap recipe cards in cooking. You could make hygiene packs. These can be made up of roll on deodorant, baby wipes, sanitary products etc for people to use.
  • More ideas and lists if what’s needed in greater Manchester is updated daily here: 


For 6th forms & colleges

As young people make the transition to adulthood it can be a difficult time, both financially and emotionally. A number of additional factors make this transition more difficult for young people in vulnerable housing situations. Many of the causes of homelessness, such as unemployment, shortage of housing, and family problems, affect young people across the spectrum. However, there are some young people who are more at risk of becoming homeless:

  • care leavers
  • runaways
  • young offenders
  • black and minority ethnic (BME) groups
  • asylum seekers
  • refugees
  • young people from rural areas

This year instead of our traditional Christmas Poetry Competition we are asking our schools both in our Teaching School Alliance @AFLTeachingSch or just schools in GM to write their poems to highlight the issue of homelessness. Please do encourage your students to join in.

One of our judges is Amanda Berriman. Her novel ‘Home’ started life as a short story (‘A Home without Moles’) in ‘Stories for Homes’ – a charity anthology published in 2013 to raise money for Shelter. She intended to leave it as a short story but found her narrator, four and a half year old Jesika, had more to say and her story grew into a novel about the difficulties of raising children in poverty with limited choices and a lack of safety nets. In Home, Jesika lives in a flat with her mother and baby brother and she knows a lot. She knows their flat is high up and the stairs are smelly. She knows she shouldn’t draw on the peeling wallpaper or touch the broken window. And she knows she loves her mummy and baby brother Toby. She does not know that their landlord is threatening to evict them and that Toby’s cough is going to get much worse. Or that Paige, her new best friend, has a secret that will explode their world. ‘Home’ is currently available in hardback and e-book. The paperback is due to be released in February 2019.



If you want to do more …… please consider donating to:



  • SHELTER who help millions of people a year struggling with bad housing or homelessness –


Alliance for Learning
Cavendish Road, Bowdon
Altrincham WA14 2NL
Proud to part of the Bright Futures Education Trust