Express & Star

Heartbroken Walsall school staff 'in tears' when children revealed they had no presents for Christmas

Heartbroken school staff were left in tears when children in their classes revealed they had received no Christmas presents from their poverty-stricken families.

Walsall has a number of areas of high deprivation (stock image).

Youngsters in a disadvantaged part of Walsall had to share their devastating experiences when teachers asked them about their festive breaks when they returned to the classrooms in early January.

Walsall has a number of areas of high deprivation with new analysis from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation showing the borough having a 44.3 per cent rate of child poverty.

Headteachers have revealed how they are providing food and other support to families in poverty to try to give all children a fair chance of succeeding in education and beyond.

But the sad reality facing youngsters in the borough was laid bare when a chair of governors, who asked not to be named, talked about how Christmas was for some pupils at the school.

The headteacher of the school said: “At Christmas, we collected bags full of presents and vouchers to get a roast for the most vulnerable families to ensure they can have a festive dinner.”

The chair of governors added: “We had a member of staff dress up as Santa and hand little presents out at Christmas and children were happy.

“After Christmas when we returned, one child was asked if he enjoyed Christmas and what he had and he replied ‘nothing’.

“There were a couple of kids who didn’t have anything. It wasn’t for religious reasons as they’d been happy to see Santa before. Staff were in tears because it’s heartbreaking.”

The challenges remain all year round and are not restricted to whether parents are able to afford to feed their kids and fun school uniforms.

The headteacher said: “Poverty plays a big role in what parents can do technology based. What some kids can use at home is probably only their mum’s phone tethered on to some 4g because they haven’t got good wifi and haven’t got a good laptop.

“As technology moves on and becomes more prevalent in education, those are the kids falling further and further behind because they haven’t got the access or connectivity. There’s lots of educational support and software we share but they can’t access it.

“So, we do a lunchtime club and make sure we invite those living in poverty and they can be part of it.”

But he added, despite the challenges those families face themselves, they are quick to give back to help others who might need it even more than they do.

The headteacher said: “We have lots of families who have nothing but when we ask them to give to those who are even less fortunate, they blow our minds.

“We try to raise money for charities and when we ask, they will give. The Harvest Festival for example – they might have something from the food bank but they re-donate to say they have given.

“Parents who we have supported, will very often will donate uniform back knowing that the need is there for others.”