Propping Up The School Budget

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John Dabell

I trained as a primary school teacher 25 years ago, starting my career in London and then I taught in a range of schools in the Midlands. In between teaching jobs, I worked as an Ofsted inspector (no hate mail please!), national in-service provider, project...
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Do you spend your own money on school?

We don’t hear about doctors and nurses having to buy their own medicine and surgical equipment.

We don’t hear about the Police having to buy their own handcuffs or firearms officers shelling out for their own bullets.

We don’t hear about firefighters buying their own lifesaving equipment.

But we do hear about many teachers voluntarily using their own money to support their classroom work.

No Shock

A recent ITV news report Teachers spending ‘own money’ to meet schools shortfall, should be a shocking headline but this is the norm…and has been for decades.

Budget cuts are quite rightly stealing all the headlines but cash-strapped schools are nothing new with thousands of teachers regularly forking out their own money to resource lessons.

My biggest reality-check as a new teacher in London was how much of my paltry salary I was actually spending on lessons. Living in the capital you are permanently out of pocket but I wasn’t prepared for the shock of having to resource many of my own science, DT and art lessons. My salary was wiped out.

Having a  fancy new science programme is great but you have to factor in all the materials you need to resource it and many lessons become unteachable. If you don’t have the stuff to teach, why should you spend weekends shelling out for the equipment if the school can’t provide it? But we do because we want children to have memorable learning experiences and if that means paying for it ourselves then that’s the price we pay for being conscientious teachers.

No Shame

More recently, schools have been asking parents to cough up to fund essentials and even save staff from being sacked. For many parents, this is a bit of a culture shock and many have taken to social media to express their surprise, disgust, outrage but in many cases their support.

But schools have got to do what they have to do now to survive and there is no shame in that – this is survival. Headteachers are bungee jumping off bridges, running multiple marathons and doing whatever they can to balance the books and keep the ship afloat.

But it is teachers we have to thank for keeping the wolf from the door because without their financial input and assistance schools would be in a bigger mess.

Figures on how much teachers spend on school resources are hard to come by but if we look overseas then we can get a rough idea. Yes, teachers around the world are dipping into their salaries too. According to the Education Market Association, on average, teachers spent nearly $500 last year, and one in 10 spent $1,000 or more.

A report by Scholastic also found that on average, teachers in the US spent $530 of their own money on items for classroom or student use with teachers in high poverty schools spending nearly 40% more than other teachers.

Teachers across school poverty levels are spending their own money on a wide variety of items for their students and classrooms. In high-poverty schools, teachers are more likely to purchase food and snacks for students, and cleaning supplies.

Image result for what educators spend their money on scholastic


Image result for what educators spend their money on scholastic

Images: Scholastic 

Equipped To Learn

The office supplier Staples commissioned a study called Equipped To Learn and found that almost two thirds of those teachers questioned felt under pressure to part with money from their own pocket to buy equipment for children.

Of the 500 teachers we spoke to, 30% spend on average between £41 and £80 on stationery per term – with three terms a year, that total could reach near to £250 every academic year.
Furthermore, a fifth of participants pay out £81 to £100 every term and 10% spend over £100.

That’s just stationery…what the true figures are on average for UK teachers is unclear but I think we could confidently say that some teachers spend hundreds of pounds of their own money on school supplies and resources. I certainly have for many years and know of many other colleagues who do the same.

No Way

The sad reality is that we are now talking about a chronically under-funded school system that is not able to supply funding for what should be priorities — books, pens, paper…and teaching staff!

Unfortunately, being a teacher now means you have to do more for less and oh yes, you have to be a professional fundraiser too. Don’t be too surprised if your next staff meeting includes an ‘any volunteers?’ moment where the headteacher asks for willing participants to abseil down the Shard to save Mr Grant’s job.


2 thoughts on “Propping Up The School Budget

  1. whiteboard pens, gluesticks, class reader-dictated by school but not provided-I regularly go round charity shops for jigsaws, small world, topic books….then there’s prizes, it’s never ending-and expensive!!!

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