Majority of teachers 'using own money to buy classroom supplies'

Unions have warned teachers are 'subsidising' Scotland's education system amid the cost of living crisis.

Majority of Scottish teachers ‘using own money to buy classroom supplies to help struggling pupils’ iStock

More than two-thirds of teachers have used their own money to buy classroom supplies and help their pupils as they “continue to subsidise Scotland’s education system,” according to a new survey.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) poll of 16,475 members also found teachers are facing “significant stress” from both their “soaring levels of workload” and the impact of the cost of living crisis.

It found 34% of teachers said they had poor wellbeing within their job overall, while 10% described their wellbeing as “very poor”.

More than half said they felt stressed frequently (53%) while a fifth (20%) said they felt that way all the time.

The research also looked at the impact of the cost of living crisis and found almost seven in ten of those surveyed (69%) said they have used their own money to buy food, clothing, school equipment, or pay for pupils they teach so the youngsters do not go without.

However just over half (51%) said they have been spending less on classroom resources because they can no longer afford to do so.

EIS general secretary Andrea Bradley said the current situation is “simply not sustainable”.

She said: “This major survey of Scotland’s teachers provides a stark warning of the current situation in Scottish education.

“Teachers are facing significant stress from both their soaring levels of workload and also from the cost-of-living crisis which has impacted on teachers personally, especially as they awaited a much-needed pay rise, and on our schools and the young people in our classrooms.

“The scarcity of support for pupils with additional support needs is compounding the stress on school staff, in addition to damaging the educational experiences of the young people concerned, including with regards to behaviour.

“With the number of children living in poverty continuing to rise, it is once again falling on schools, with dwindling resources, to plug the gaps in many young people’s lives. However, it is simply not sustainable for teachers to continue to subsidise the Scottish education system.

“Whether it is physically subsidising the resources for the classroom or supplies for individual pupils, or indeed by working so many additional unpaid hours that the system does not support itself without them, it is simply unsustainable.”

The EIS survey – Workload, Health And Wellbeing And The Cost Of Living Crisis – also found almost all of the teachers questioned (98%) said they work above their contracted hours each week.

Four in ten (41%) said they work more than eight additional hours each week.

The survey, which was carried out between December 21 and January 31, also found just over one in ten (13%) teachers said they are struggling to pay their rent or mortgage, and half (50%) are starting to struggle.

A further 16% said they are struggling to pay for their weekly food shop, and almost two-thirds (65%) said they are starting to struggle.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “This EIS survey is certainly concerning given the context of our teachers accepting the biggest pay package for their members in over 20 years – with the majority seeing their salaries rise by £5,200. Classroom teachers on the main-grade scale in Scotland are the best paid in the UK.

“It is therefore imperative that the Government works with our local authority partners – who employ our teachers – to better support them in the workplace. Since October 2020 the Scottish Government has invested over £2m in supporting the wellbeing of the education workforce. But there is more we will require to do, working in partnership with the local authorities.

“Undoubtedly schools are continuing to respond to the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, compounded by the cost of living crisis, and the stress we see reported by teachers is undoubtedly replicated in other parts of our public sector, where people are working on the front line.

“Our education reform agenda provides the platform for a radical shake-up of how we deliver education in Scotland. The education secretary is clear that this must mean better support for staff to allow them to deliver the quality learning and teaching that our young people deserve. She will continue to engage with the teaching unions on this important work.”

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