There are currently over 2,250 homeless children attending primary schools nationwide, Focus Ireland has said.
It has launched a new guidance resource for primary school teachers and principals who are supporting students and families who are homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless,
The resource, which was produced in collaboration with the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO), aims to highlight the impact homelessness can have on a child's education. It also offers practical suggestions about how schools can help children in this situation.
According to the latest figures from the Department of Housing, 3,778 children are currently homeless - an increase of over 400% in five years. The problem has now spread to many places nationwide, with over 500 families and 1,000 children homeless outside of Dublin.
A recent survey by the Irish Primary Principals' Network of 1,000 principals nationwide revealed that 27% of primary schools have homeless children attending. Many of these children are suffering from poor self-esteem, anxiety and exhaustion.
"This resource will be of great assistance to teachers and principals in primary schools nationwide who are working to help many children and families who are facing homelessness.
"The damage it is causing to our children was again highlighted this month as over 2,250 children who are homeless went back to school nationwide. There's a real danger that these children will get lost behind the numbers. We know through our work supporting families that homelessness is very damaging to children," commented Focus Ireland's director of advocacy, Mike Allen.
According to INTO president, Feargal Brougham, he never thought such a resource would be needed.
"As a newly qualified teacher working here 30 years ago, I could never have foreseen that one day I would be launching a resource on primary school children's homelessness. The idea that almost 4,000 children would be homeless was an alien one decades ago, it is a repugnant reality today," he said.
He noted that the resource is "practical and accessible".
"The suggestions contained within this school resource will not suit every school context and may need to be adjusted to respond to the individual pupils in your school given your unique context.
"Additionally, the document is supplemented with an online resource which sets out some of the external agencies and supports that are available for families who are experiencing, or are at risk of, homelessness," Mr Brougham explained.
Both Focus Ireland and the INTO have called on the Government to tackle this issue immediately by reviewing its policies dealing with child homelessness and by giving schools extra ring-fenced resources to support those affected.
The guidance document can be viewed here.
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