Hartsdown head teacher who revealed extent of poverty faced by pupils launches Christmas ‘hamper’ fundraiser

Hartsdown head teacher Matthew Tate

A Margate head teacher who spoke out about the poverty faced by many of his students has launched a fundraising appeal to pay for Christmas hampers full of essentials and gifts for youngsters.

Matthew Tate, who is the head teacher at Hartsdown Academy, hopes to raise £1,000 to bring Christmas to children who would otherwise face a bleak festive season.


In his appeal he says: “Everyone knows the story Christmas Carol. In the story Tiny Tim was destitute with nothing except the love of his family. What fewer people know is that this is still the reality for many children in the UK today.

“Key areas of Thanet are some of the poorest in the UK and children instead of looking forward to Christmas dread it, knowing that instead of gifts under the tree they will be hungry and cold.

“We want to make a simple difference by putting a Christmas Gift in as many families hands as possible.” (Find donation link at the bottom of the article).

‘We wash kids’ clothes’

Mr Tate spoke on LBC radio earlier this week about the crushing poverty faced by many of his students and the efforts of staff to alleviate some of the problems.

He told radio presenter James O’Brien: “We wash children’s clothes, we feed kids breakfast, we take kids into hospital when we need to, we fight with social services, the police, other things when we need to. I’m not criticising those services, they’re as stretched as we are.

“Our view and my view is that education is a huge part of what we do, obviously, but actually, we have a responsibility to do the best for our kids.”


Mr Tate also spoke of how many of his students face the poorest life expectancy in Kent and that youngsters were two and a half times more likely to die in childhood, adding: “”There’s obviously many reasons for it but not least is the fact that in our area it’s very difficult for people to get a GP so preventable diseases, cancer and things, are all picked up late.”

Mr Tate aims to bring dentists and GPs into the school and has already arranged an optician visit.

Other issues raised were children trafficked by gangs, the 18 month wait to see specialists for mental health issues and the inequality of Ofsted inspections when being measured against schools with significantly less deprivation in their catchment areas.

He said: “We’ve got children that have been trafficked around the country into brothels and so we do our best to get them qualifications and my belief is education turns around lives and by getting children qualifications, we will do that.

“We don’t exclude children at my school. We’ve had zero fixed term exclusions. We don’t permanently exclude children whatever they do because that just causes more damage.

“Instead of being praised for it, I don’t do it to get praise for it, we get hammered because our GCSE results are compared to the schools you’re talking about.”

Lack of investment

He also revealed the government will not invest in ‘failing’ schools, saying: “”Kids are living in homes that are cold. Up until last year the school had had a 1960s boiler that had broken down every year, so the school was cold and the reason why the government wouldn’t give us money to replace that boiler and fix it was because we were not a good school.

“Policy is if a school is struggling and in difficulties, they won’t give it money which to me in a common sense way seems insane. What they say is it’s market forces, we support the good schools.

“Market forces doesn’t serve areas like this. I’ve got friends who know people that came into the area as a GP and they found that it was so depressing and difficult to work as a GP in Thanet that they left so we have those GP shortages, dentist shortages, the lack of the good food, all of those things.”

Mr Tate said he hoped for a change in the ‘political winds.’

Child poverty on the isle

Thanet has the highest rates of child poverty in Kent.

The data for 2017/18, compiled by Loughborough University on behalf of coalition End Child Poverty, says 35% of children on the isle live below the poverty line (after housing costs) – equating to 11,474 youngsters- with Newington estimated to have a shocking 51% of youngsters in poverty.

The wards with the second highest figure of 46% are Cliftonville West and Dane Valley followed by 42% in Northwood, Margate Central and Salmestone. The Margate wards are the Hartsdown school catchment area.

Hartsdown raising aspirations

Hartsdown works

Hartsdown has got programmes in place to tackle issues and to raise aspirations. The school is working with new arts and education charity The Sixteen Trust and recently displayed students’ work alongside Turner Prize nominees such as Tracey Emin.

The Trust is working with Hartsdown students, with the aim of expanding this to the isle’s Coastal Academy Trust schools and then further afield, to show them how their talents and potential could be used to carve out a career in arts.

There is also a  £10 million new build taking place on site with five of its teaching blocks being demolished to create a new school building and sports hall extension. The new build is expected to be completed by February 2020 with a second phase due for completion by September 2020.

How the new teaching block at Hartdown Academy will look (dha planning)

Future ambitions for Hartsdown include becoming an all-through primary/secondary school serving children aged 4 – 19, similar to the St George’s site in Broadstairs.

Building work at the school Photo John Horton

A radical overhaul to the way Year 7 students are being taught was also introduced last year.

The school has changed the way Year 7 students take their classes to make a hybrid transition between primary and secondary school.

Photo Jamie Horton (Hartsdown student)

The  youngsters in Year 7 have their day split into three parts. The first of these is literacy focusing on English, history, geography and ethics and philosophy. The second is numeracy centred around maths, science and computer science. The third part of the curriculum is taken by four or five different teachers and is based on subjects including art, music, PE, Spanish and for the first time British Sign Language.

The structure is part of the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme which the school is in the process of being registered to formally deliver.

In 2018 Ofsted inspectors rated Hartsdown Academy as requiring improvement – a drop from the Good grading in its last inspection in 2014 – but praised Mr Tate, saying his work since he took up post in 2016 was “transforming the school.”

Mr Tate, who told the LBC presenter “I love what I do but sometimes it hurts incredibly” is hoping the Christmas hamper appeal will raise money but also encourage donations of new toys and non perishable food. The aim is for each hamper to have toiletries, food including Christmas treats and gifts for the children.

Find the fundraising page here


    • The problem is a lot of these poor children’s parents are not working class, they are unemployed slackers who are too lazy to work and see benefits day as pay day, for a lot of these wasters it is a lifestyle choice. These same wasters still manage to smoke fags, get pissed and smoke dope and wear the latest fashions While their poor children suffer.
      Too many of these slackers continue to have children even though they have no way of supporting them financially. If you can’t afford kids then don’t have them. I am personally sick and tired of these wasters ignoring their parental responsibilities and the leftie idiots claiming it’s the government’s fault that irresponsible slackers can’t keep it in their pants. I genuinely feel for these children but the problem is the parents not the government.

      • Im not a fan of people exploiting the system who are not in need of it but you do assume an awful lot.Working families who use food banks.. you have your views i have mine and i hope a lot of those who staunchly vote Tory never have to lower themselves to rely on a system which has been cut to the bone for the last 9 odd years.

        • I’m not assuming anything, I see it first hand. The benefits system was designed as a last chance rescue not a permanent wage packet.

          When my dad was made unemployed at the age of 60 he got zero benefits, with the reason being he had savings (mr Blair was in government then), he contributed into the money pot but received nothing back whereas these benefits abusers put nothing in and are continually taking out and then have the cheek to spend their “wages” (their words not mine) on cannabis and alcohol and then ignore the needs of their children.

          I know people who use food banks who are working and also some unemployed slackers but surprisingly still somehow manage to have the necessities in life, cannabis, fags, alcohol, flatscreen tv, sky tv package, the latest seasons football shirt. Just like the benefits system these people are now abusing the food banks and technically abusing their own kids by placing their own selfish want above the needs of their children.

          What’s not ifair is that there are people on benefits who earn more than people who actually go out to work and contribute to society.

          • Speak to your local Tory candidate im sure he can put your doubts aside ,well lets face it they are screwing the poor,the sick and the mentally unwell into as much poverty as possible, and of course lets not forget the kids

        • A couple of examples,

          Couple, one works 16 hours, 2 kids, total income 1725 take home a month. Rents privately

          Single mum, ( nearly had child taken into care) child has developmental problems ( maybe no surprise) but this triggers extra benefits, does no work, gets 1600 a month, has social housing. So lower housing costs.

          Have a play with the calculators on the likes of entitledto.co.uk

          Add to that free prescriptions, eye test, dental.etc Paying your water bill is pretty much a matter of choice as there is little downside if you choose not to.

          Single mum 3 kids, does’nt work, social services pay for a cleaner as she can’t manage.

          Some schools have 50% of kids with concern sheets, family welfare officers that knock on doors to wake people up to get the kids to school, make sure they claim all their benefits.

          14 year olds so badly behaved that they cannot be trusted with scissors and glue.

          Pay enough money to people to remain “poor” and a good number will choose that lifestyle.

          You can “screw” the poor as you put it, by giving them too much for nothing , it makes them entitled and gives no incentive to change their lot.

          The “professional poor” have incomes that they could never achieve in the workplace.

          Doesn’t apply to all, but it does to huge numbers across the country.

          • ( nearly had child taken into care) child has developmental problems ( maybe no surprise)

            your examples make you look a bit of a tit mate. i assume you Vote tory

          • I’ve plied my trade around cliftonville for 20 years, seen things that wouldn’t be believed, there’s nothing wrong with a welfare state , there are those for whom it provides a safety net, but when the system does nothing to persuade people to change their ways there is.

            Yep my vote goes to the blue rosette, from that no doubt you’ll jump to a whole heap of assumptions, which unlike the things i’ve witnessed will have no basis beyond your interpretation of my posts.

          • Anyone who is getting the equivalent of £1600 a month from the benefit system isn’t in social housing, they are in private rental accommodation, and the vast majority of the £1600 benefit goes to their landlords. It’s private landlords that get the greatest profit from the benefit system. Exactly the same as the deliberately misleading Daily Fail headlines that say asylum seekers get 1000’s – they don’t it’s the same private landlords that profit from the system not the people on the receiving end. The biggest abuse of our system as the tax dodging corporations and wealthy individuals who off shore and hold their assets in trust to avoid paying taxes. It’s exactly what Thatcher did with her property portfolio off shore, held in trust to avoid paying tax, the legislation that allows this doesn’t get written by accident.

          • Violet Elizabeth, the example I gave is most certainly living in social housing, the other example lives in the private rented sector. But you can choose to believe or not.
            Have a play with the numbers in a benefits calculator such as entitledto.co.uk

            The social sector only keeps its rents low as a headline figure because the original builds are subsidised by the tax payer add in those costs, along with the extra tax payer funding the social sector receives such as the 40 billion from the “ decent homes standard” and the billions more that will come after the grenfell report is finalised and it works out far more expensive than the private sector, which funds itself in terms of initial investment ( before you say, both private and social sector receive huge amounts of housing benefit), the private sector also pays tax.
            The social sector has huge maintenance and mangement issues, look at the east kent housing fiasco, TDC are part owners set it up and many of the staff transferred from tdc to ekh so no dodging the blame.
            Political dogma makes both sides selectively blind to the issues in housing which is why little improves.

      • “Leftie idiots” ? Such as? Concerned, are you really unaware of what the Tories have been doing to society for the last 10 years?

  1. Concerned, you should be. What a typical generalisation from someone who claims to be concerned. You surely are, mostly about yourself and all the other daily mail readers. Hope Boris doesn’t have to worry about where his next meal is coming from, after all being a millionaire must be tricky especially as most of his support is from billionaires that he and his government have provided with their handouts and massive tax breaks, never mind, he’ll soon join the club when he’s finished what Thatcher started 40 years ago. Concerned…. I don’t think so! The tories have been true to form, they’ve turned the working class on itself with his pack of lies about what brexit will do to them. He knows the only winners in brexit will be the money men, you know, the thieves that put in this mess. Good luck Concerned, although you’ve already had your share of luck, not being born into poverty.

  2. To concerned , you should be called unconcerned, blaming the victims not the politicians who caused austerity in the first place, i e tories and liberals coalition government

    • I am unconcerned by your opinion that has no bearing on facts.

      I work in a shop, I earn close to minimum wage and I most definitely wasn’t born into wealth.

      Is it acceptable to you that a lot of these people using food banks can still afford cannabis, fags and alcohol as well as the essentials, sky tv package flatscreen tv and Nike air trainers but then Claim they can’t afford to buy food or washing powder to clean clothes?

      Is it acceptable to you that a lot of these so called impoverished people can go out in a Thursday down Ramsgate and get pissed up on their dole money and then claim they have no money for food for their kids ?

      Do you think it’s ok for young girls who can barely look after themselves to have children that they have no capability to support financially?

      If someone is in genuine financial problems then I feel for them but unfortunately there are too many people who see the benefits system as easy money and refuse to leave it. I know plenty of people who claim benefits but would not work in a shop because in their words “ it’s beneath me”, or “I’m not working in a poxy shop”

      How can you justify defending the people who only take and refuse to give back to society ?

      No wonder this country is polarised with people like you who blame everything on the government and refuse to listen to reason and truth.

      A child’s welfare is the primary responsibility of the parent, not the government. Too many parents deny responsibility for their actions and expect everyone else to care and pay for their children. Parents need to be held accountable for their children and their own actions rather than blaming the hoy for their own shortcomings.

      • There you go again, stop reading the daily mail concerned. You have an incredible insight on the subject of cannabis etc. Perhaps you should try some it might straighten your very twisted mind. By the way, you do seem to be in the minority here. Any thoughts?

        • I think you should read up on the long term affects of cannabis, and the mental health issues that people are suffering as a result of smoking it.
          Just for the record, I have worked non stop for 30 years and not once claimed a single benefit from the state, I have zero criminal convictions and have contributed to society financially, I also rehome rescue dogs, what a horrible person I must be in your eyes to expect others to do the same, how dare I expect others to show responsibility and also contribute to society in a positive way.

          You keep spending your benefits on weed and special brew, after all it’s my taxes that are probably paying for it. Enjoy your high

          • There you go again, there’s no stopping you. You automatically assume I’m on benefits and out of work. I’m not going to lower myself to your gutter standards. Can’t stop I’m just taking my new car that I’ve paid for by working all my life out for a spin. Couldn’t resist that one.The difference is, I’m an old fashioned socialist who believe in fairness and opportunities for all not just the few. Have a lovely Christmas concerned, don’t think you’ll be going hungry.

          • I am guessing concerned is one of these red face chaps who gets very outraged by those brown people they all love to hate.. i will go back to my big fat spliff while drinking my special brew.. Ah but i don’t drink or take drugs, im just a concerned man worried about the state of the people running our country who have so many loyal followers.. And Mr concerned i hope you never find yourself in need of claiming benefits, you see there’s a lot of stuck up daily mail readers who would point the finger at you if you did, also lets hope you can afford private health care.

  3. All I can say to Concerned is how depressing I find your comments. I expect you also think homelessness is a ‘lifestyle choice’. I can only admire and commend what this headmaster is trying to do and endorse what ‘Seen it all before’ has said.

  4. Wevsky you really are portraying yourself as a fool.
    I dare you to show one example of where I have ever said anything racist, you won’t find one. Stop acting like a dick. If you can’t contribute to a debate without spouting garbage and making slanderous claims then don’t bother because you will only make yourself look more stupid, if that’s even possible.

    Your spurious claims about me just show how pathetic your argument really is. Hope you have a good Christmas watching the flatscreen tv my taxes have probably bought you, meanwhile I will be working all Christmas to fund the welfare state that makes the unemployed more wealthy than I am.

    • You don’t need to say anything racist your whole attitude oozes a middle aged red faced outraged man at all those dole bludgers and foreigners sponging off the system.Daily mail reader as seen it all before says, you are a type and it’s this type the country needs to be well rid of
      As for Christmass i dont think your taxes paid for my Smart tv, but there you are assuming , now go be outraged somewhere else and don’t forget to vote for who you feel is looking after your interests above all else

    • I think we all know who is behaving like a dick.
      May I suggest that rather than read the Dail Mail and the Sun, you subscribe to a rather more informed newspaper such as the Guardian, Independent or I.
      Your understanding might be increased, and your prejudice diminished, were you to volunteer at the Night Shelter a couple of times.

  5. You really are a buffoon. You go vote Labour and in 5 years time when the country is bankrupt the Tories will Be forced to fix the mess communist Corbyn has created.
    If we are generalising like you have, then I could also say that your attitude oozes that of a leftie bigot that has never done a days work in your life and expects people like me to pay for you and to pay for the upkeep of your kids. You keep reading the guardian newspaper that I have probably paid for and let your kids run round like feral animals knowing that someone else will look after them for you while you get stoned on your skunk and special brew.
    Merry Christmas my bigoted friend.

  6. Have you fact checked the manifestos on both sides, i have, lots of lies on tory side of things and a fully costed manifesto on the other, im sure the extras 50k nurses and 20k police ( even though they cut 21) will make all the difference.
    Bigoted, no dear chap educated and not a moron who believes the torys are what the country needs,after all the last 9 years has doen so well, i dont drink, i dont smoke drugs or take any drugs as for my kids ,all bar two happily employed and living away from home being grown up. You crack on in your dream world and go wave your blue banner like a good tory fanboy

    And on that note i hope you are yours are never in need of the welfare state, couldn’t be a part of the problem now could we

    • Good night my bigoted friend. Keep drinking the Corbyn kool aid but remember that when your kids and grandkids are paying for Corbyns giveaway bonanza for decades to come it was people like you that voted for a bankrupt Britain.

      • It was international bankers, playing fast and loose with sub-prime mortgages that screwed us. When it all went wahoonie shaped, the ripples affected banks here. And who bailed them out?
        We did. The taxpayers.
        And who benefited? They did. The banks.
        Who’s still ground down by austerity?
        We are. The taxpayers.
        Hey, here’s an idea, Mr Concerned, why not pop up to the school and see for yourself? Pot smoking, lager swilling iPad playing yoofs, or desperate, broken children.

  7. Concerned, consigned to history with a bit of luck. Stop making assumptions. If there is a buffoon it’s you and the money men you seem to adore. You’ve probably got nothing to talk of, but live in fantasy world where everything is blue. Poor sod.

  8. Concerned thank you for being a truthful tory . An uncaring pathetic creature who generalise millions of families . In the meantime i will spend my time as a councillor helping people and not be judgemental. We deserve a better society run by selfish tories

    • Not a good look for a councillor supposedly there to serve the people. Very negative energy. Not a vote winner. The public are very bored with the old them vs us stuff. They see through it. Divide and rule an old game that’s had its day.

      • It’s pretty obvious from current UK politics that the public has not seen through “the old them vs us stuff”! Pretty obvious from this thread, actually.

  9. Councillor Lewis, when the next Labour government makes Britain bankrupt and Britain is the new Venezuela of the west we will have people like yourselves to blame. Corbyn is promising everyone everything , Pretty much the only thing Corbyn hasn’t promised is a gold unicorn.
    As for me being judgmental I suggest you read your own reply’s and your followers replies in this thread, you are coming across as a person who is intolerant towards those holding different opinions, a common problem with a lot of people with severe left leaning tendencies, after all it’s easy to shout down rather than have constructive debates.
    I have already said I genuinely am sorry for the truly impoverished and test they deserve more but not once have you criticised the people who are taking the system for everything it’s got. If you genuinely believe that there is not a problem with people fraudulently claiming benefits because they don’t want to work you must be walking round with blinkers on or see them as easy votes.
    A lot of these parents are purchasing PlayStations, sky subscriptions, cannabis, fags and alcohol but then don’t have enough money to wash their children’s clothes, is that the governments fault or the parents??????

    As for the head master in the news, his interview is politically motivated, he already said he wants to see political change, he also claims his school gets nothing but then tells us his school is getting a £10million new building. Is £10million really nothing?

    However am also full of praise for the new £10 million building as it is being built with Beas and nature in mind. They are keeping an important corridor of land clear because it’s a bee migration route.

    I want you to know that I previously voted for the Labour Party when Tony Blair was leader but find it impossible to vote for Labour now it’s lurched so far to the left. But again you have already judged me without knowing the facts.

    • When Blair had been PM long enough to turn the Labour Party into Tory-lite, I stopped voting Labour and voted Green instead. Now I feel I can vote Labour again. And there are thousands like me. Clearly, Labour’s return to their proper socialist values is causing the Tory party a good deal of unease.

      It is the Labour manifesto not Jeremy Corbyn which is making promises, which Labour voters would like to give them the chance of fulfilling.

      • Well the test will be proven one way or the other on thursday, which ever party prevails it’ll mark a radical change in the future of the uk, personally it’s a case of being stuck between a rock and a hard place. Neither leader is credible.

  10. You said: “Councillor Lewis, when the next Labour government makes Britain bankrupt and Britain is the new Venezuela of the west we will have people like yourselves to blame. Corbyn is promising everyone everything , Pretty much the only thing Corbyn hasn’t promised is a gold unicorn”. You then wondered why “[people] have already judged me without knowing the facts.”
    I think it’s not unreasonable for people to form an opinion about you from the vitriolic stream of spleen venting that characterises your writing.

  11. We won’t get anywhere by polarising into political camps and demonising others. Time to look at all the causes here if we are ever to move forward. So bored of all the left vs right derision from all camps. It’s not a positive energy to change things. There are many struggling to survive, there are vulnerable children put into Thanet with not enough support from stretched services, there are people turning blind eyes to trafficking and gangs and the drugs industry, and there are some exploiting the benefits system as well. Big pharma also makes billions from the misery as well. Them vs us just doesn’t work to help anyone anymore.

    • But that is the system we’ve got. If you want to engage with politics at all (as in having a say in how our country is shaped) then you have to vote for “A” or “B”. And each of “A” and “B” is polarised in its views about various things.
      And it’s also fair to say that people who think about things form quite legitimate conclusions that “A”s approach is far better than that of “B”; and so they argue so, with vigour.
      What’s nonsense is when political parties spend some much time arguing the minutiae of how they’re going to do essentially the same thing.

      • I agree to a point with Andrew, with the exception that after such a devastating cut to practically all public services, this is a chance to rebalance the economy. I can’t accept your theory of vote a or b to get the same result. We’ve have had the most draconian cuts since you know who, so unless Labour get in, it will be more of the same. If those Labour voters think that brexit will be good for them, they will have fallen for the old tory trick, by dividing the working class so they turn on each other. They are past masters of this, because they know all the dirty tricks in the book. Vote Labour, please unless you want more cuts to education the NHS, and more especially social care. Let’s hope none of your elderly relatives have to rely on the Boris the Bluffer. My dad would despair at what is happening, he worked hard all his life and had no time for the Conservatives or what they stood for. Vote Labour.

  12. I do agree, SIAB. Its’ a shame that Labour is offering sweeties and baubles, instead of “proper” Socialist policies that would undo some of the terible injustices that the tories have heaped upon us over the last decade.
    I can sort of see why the half-hearted offers, though: the electorate would be well and truly alienated if Labour pushed such things to much.

  13. Frankly…concerned having read all of your comments and heard your rhetoric one can only conclude that the only person you are concerned for is your self… and this is the main contributory factor of why our society is in the toilet…you are also obviously frustrated by your own life and blame others for your inability to realise what you feel is your own true potential…its marvelous you can have your say to but a shame you gave the lack of foresight, understanding or education to grasp the realities of the situation and circumstances faced be members of society… I would suggest that without feeling the need to blurt your opinion to justify the narrowness of your understanding that perhaps would would like to donate a fee hours a week of your time to Hartsdown to help in any way they feel you are qualified to for say a year …then perhaps you will have a basic understanding of the situation faced by many children and the families they come from …until then you are simply not qualified to make the comments and statements you do…frankly I appeal to all those who have responded to your comments and resignations to stop because until you have some kind of basic understanding your comments have absolutely no value and should be treated as such… they should be ignored..

    • No offence, i’ve spent 20 years working in cliftonville and feel i’ve seen enough to form an opinion, i’ve dealt with social services, welfare officers and those in the education system, there are undoubtedly those that struggle and will always do so no matter how hard they try, but from what i’ve seen there is a significant number who have no interest beyond getting as much as possible for as little effort as possible, it has awful ongoing effect on those around them, the authorities can try as hard as they want to turn childrens lives around but when they are with parents of that ilk for the majority of their time its often a case of limiting the damage.
      The system is to quick to placate with more money and services with little incentive to improve your lot, for all its faults universal credit is starting to change that, hopefully if allowed to mature it will become more effective and have its own faults rectified.
      Throwing more money at people is not the answer by itself.

    • I agree with Father-of-six’ comments about Concerned. But I think that it’s right to express one’s disagreement with someone and tell them your reasons for disagreeing.

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