UK teachers spend their own money to help students, according to NFER

Teaching is hard work, and it is even harder if you feel “very underpaid” amid mounting household bills, as is the case for 85% of British teachers.

Despite this, the UK teaching profession appears to be going the extra mile, shelling out some of its money to support students, according to a report published Wednesday by the National Educational Research Foundation.

On average, one in five primary and secondary school teachers said they contribute their own funds to support students’ pastoral and welfare needs. Teachers typically spent between £74 and £83 between September 2023 and March 2024, NFER’s survey of almost 1,300 teachers and school leaders showed.

The problem is worse in primary school than in secondary school, as 79% of teachers spend their money helping students or schools purchase items.

“Individual teachers, particularly those in disadvantaged schools, are going above and beyond what their school is already doing to meet pupils’ basic needs at a time when their own finances may be under pressure,” the report highlighted.

Student conditions have also deteriorated due to the cost of living crisis. About 40% of elementary teachers have reported that students are hungry at school and need more clothing and other educational equipment compared to a year ago.

“Teachers and senior school managers are on the front line. “They see the immediate impacts of cost-of-living pressures on students,” the report says.

“Regardless of whether they have the staff or resources to do so, many may feel compelled to step in to provide urgent support to students and their families in need.”

Ongoing problems

The UK has seen teacher strikes break out in recent years over low pay, lack of investment in schools and high workloads. The National Education Union (NEU), the largest of its kind in Europe, found that the majority of teachers (85%) felt underpaid for their work, given their skills and qualifications.

“Since 2010, teachers’ salaries have decreased significantly, relative to other workers and in real terms versus inflation. Salary levels do not adequately value teachers,” said Daniel Kebede, General Secretary of the NEU.

Last July, the UK’s four main teaching unions voted in favor of a 6.5% pay rise, boosting salaries for both entry-level and veteran teachers in the field. The government is also looking at ways to reduce teachers’ workload by five hours a week over the next three years.

The NFER report highlights the wider financial problems facing British schools as costs rise, forcing at least 20% of schools to rethink their budgets.

Although some might hope that an improving economy will result in more generous funding for schools (or at least enough to meet demands to pay teachers more), UK schools face a number of obstacles, among them decades of underinvestment and the dire situation of children in need of social support.

Teachers unions are pressuring their members to consider striking again in hopes of new pay increases next year.

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