A school leaders’ union is taking the unprecedented step of having to advise members who are worried about losing their homes due to the economic climate. At the Conservative Party conference today, Paul Whiteman of the NAHT union said school leaders had told the organisation that rising mortgage rates were creating a “real fear” for members.
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He also said that leaders were concerned about food bank use among school staff.
At the event, jointly hosted by the NEU teaching union, NAHT school leaders’ union, and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), a panel of experts discussed the impact of austerity on schools.
Whiteman said: “This is something we’ve never had to deal with before as a union, but it is a real fear for some of our members.
“We must advise members about how they can negotiate with their mortgage lenders and make sure they don’t lose their homes.”
He added: “This is something our members are struggling with now. The economic climate is biting hard.”
ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton said school leaders were also dealing with the “human impact” of austerities, such as staff coming to them asking for help to pay for food or electricity.
He said: “Some of these things are just so far from what any of us thought we would be dealing with in our professional lives.”
Barton added that the “crisis in teacher recruitment and retention” was also driven by many teachers leaving the profession because they could not afford to live on their salaries.
NAHT president Damian Hinds said that while there had been some “positive noises” from the government about investment in education, this had not yet translated into “real money” for schools.
Hinds said: “It is quite right that we should be talking about the human impact of austerity, but we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that there is a real crisis in our schools and colleges caused by a lack of funding.
“That is why we are calling on the government to urgently address the issue of school funding so that we can provide the best possible education for all our young people.”
The panel was also critical of the government’s approach to Brexit, with Barton warning that a “no deal” scenario would be a “disaster” for schools.
He said: “A no-deal Brexit would be an absolute disaster for schools. We have already seen a drop in the number of EU teachers coming to work in our schools, and that is before we have even left the EU.
“If we crash out without a deal, it will be even harder for schools to recruit the staff they need, and that will have a knock-on effect on standards.”
Hinds added that the government needed to provide “urgent clarity” on what would happen to EU nationals working in schools after Brexit.
He said: “We have members who are very worried about what will happen to them after we leave the EU. They need urgent reassurance from the government that their jobs and livelihoods are safe.”
What do you think of the advice the school leaders’ union gives its members? Let us know in the comments below.
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