TEACHERS are routinely giving food, clothes and equipment to poverty-hit pupils, it has been claimed, as it emerged council finances are "increasingly critical".

One teacher told of buying a Christmas dinner and gifts for a family after their benefits were stopped, as they urged Scottish ministers to come to their school to see "how front line services are being stretched to their limits".

It comes as Scotland’s public spending watchdog laid bare the impact of council funding cuts, warning services would need to be further slashed.

READ MORE: Scotland's councils to run out of cash reserves 'within two to three years'

The Accounts Commission said councils were operating in a “complex, changing and increasingly uncertain environment”, while Scottish Government funding had plummeted by 9.6 per cent in real terms over the last eight years.

The anonymous guidance teacher revealed they had gone to Tesco with the school’s deputy after a tearful mother got in touch, saying she had no presents or food for her son.

In a letter to MSPs on Holyrood’s education committee – who are examining the impact of poverty on school attainment – the teacher said they had worked in the city with the "highest drug death rate in Europe" for 13 years, but poverty had increased.

"There are many children refusing to attend school,” they added. “There is a distinct lack of services to help these children. They cannot attain if we cannot get them to engage in education.

"Staff such as myself visit homes and offer to bring these kids into school. Social work services have been cut massively and increasing families turn to school for support, however we often cannot provide the support at home that the families need."

The teacher said their school had achieved "some of the highest attaining results for young people living in poverty in Scotland".

They added: "We have a daily breakfast club which is free for our pupils. We have a cupboard full of clothing that we can give to pupils. Staff donate clothing to children very often.

"I've had pupils not attending school because they don't have shoes or uniform. I've bought jackets for children who don't have one.

READ MORE: Teachers highlight poverty issues for many pupils

"Every Christmas our staff donate hundreds of gifts and food hampers to our families. I've had a parent phoning me in tears as her benefits were stopped and she had no food or present for her boy at Christmas.

"My depute head and I went to Tesco and bought the family a Christmas dinner and gifts for the family."

They said their workload was now “totally overwhelming”, with staff having to act as “social workers, mental health workers as well as teachers”.

In a separate submission to the committee, the NASUWT teaching union said that "teachers are now regularly giving increasing numbers of children food, clothes and equipment, at their own expense".

The Scottish Government's Pupil Equity Fund is this year providing schools with £120 million to help close the attainment gap, with the money going direct to head teachers to determine how to spend it.

But the head of English at one secondary school told MSPs the cash was merely a "re-injection of the money that has been stripped out of Scottish education over the past decade, and even then it is not a permanent re-injection.”

In its annual report looking at local government in Scotland, the Accounts Commission warned finding further savings was now "increasingly critical" for councils dealing with ongoing reductions in funding.

READ MORE: ‘Marginal’ progress on closing attainment gap between rich and poor

Scottish Government funding is the largest source of income for councils, but ring-fenced cash – such as the £51 million handed to local authorities last year to help maintain teacher-pupil ratios – means there are strict limits on where savings can be made.

The watchdog previously found the majority of councils are now dipping into cash reserves to cope with day-to-day spending, but forecasted funding gaps at many authorities are so large that this will no longer plug the hole.

Staff numbers have fallen every year since 2009, while across Scotland, 27 councils had 27,000 outstanding equal pay claims in September 2016.

Councils are also buckling under the weight of Scotland’s ageing population, with an ever-increasing demand on social care services.

Education is the largest area of council spend, but figures show spending has not kept up with pupil numbers over the last eight years, despite attainment increasing.

The yawning chasm in school performance between wealthier and poorer council areas was also laid bare – with the most deprived pupils still performing only half as well as the richest.

The Accounts Commission said there was a general risk that everyday services would be hit, and urged councils to be clear about how cost-cutting will affect the public.

It said there would likely be “significant and profound” implications for councils on the back of Brexit, while ongoing public sector reform would add to local workloads.

READ MORE: Scotland's councils to run out of cash reserves 'within two to three years'

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay insisted council were treated fairly, with the reduction in funding “of the same level as the real terms cuts to Scotland’s resource budget from the UK Government”.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman added: “We are determined to help every child achieve their potential, no matter their background or circumstances.”

She said ministers had set out “ambitious actions” to reduce child poverty, including helping parents with the cost of school uniforms and extra financial support for low income families.