A third of primary school teachers struggle to afford food due to the cost of living crisis, sparking concerns for children’s education. In a poll shared exclusively with The Independent, nearly 30 per cent said financial pressures were also impacting their ability to do their job well.
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Education leaders warned that teachers’ struggles in the cost of living crisis could knock on students – both their attainment and wellbeing – and further dwindle a profession already struggling to keep numbers up. They said that schools were already losing staff members in search of better pay or working conditions elsewhere, while others were being forced into part-time or temporary positions. The findings come amid growing pressure on the government to do more to support teachers, who have seen their pay fall by around 13 per cent in real terms since 2010. Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said the government needed to urgently address the “growing crisis in teacher retention and recruitment”.
“This survey lays bare the reality of what it is like to be a teacher trying to make ends meet in Britain today,” he added. “The financial pressures so many are facing are not only affecting their wellbeing but also impacting children’s education. “It is no wonder we now see an exodus of experienced teachers from the profession. The government cannot ignore these findings.”
The NEU poll of more than 1,000 members found that 29 per cent said their financial situation was impacting their ability to do their job well, while a further 24 per cent said it was affecting their health and wellbeing.
When asked about the specific impact of the cost of the living crisis on teachers, nearly a third (32 per cent) said they had struggled to afford food in the last year.
A similar proportion (31 per cent) said they had been unable to pay utility bills or credit card debts, while one in five (20 per cent) said they had fallen behind on rent or mortgage payments.
One primary school teacher from Derbyshire who responded to the poll said she had been forced to visit food banks on several occasions. “I am a single parent, and I simply cannot afford to feed my family and myself on my salary,” she explained. “I have had to rely on food banks to be able to eat. This is not something that should be happening in one of the richest countries in the world.”
Another primary school teacher from Hertfordshire said the cost of the living crisis was “wreaking havoc” on her mental health. “I feel so stressed all the time worrying about money; it’s affecting my wellbeing,” she said. “I love my job, but the financial pressures are too much.”
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the school leaders union NAHT, said the findings were “deeply concerning” and called on the government to address the issue urgently. “Teachers are struggling to make ends meet, impacting their health and wellbeing,” he said. “This, in turn, has a knock-on effect on their ability to teach effectively. We need to value and support our teachers properly to attract and retain the best classroom talent.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We recognise and understand the pressures that our dedicated teaching workforce face, which is why we have increased starting salaries to a record high of £26,000 and are investing over £1 billion to help with the costs of becoming a teacher. “Our investment is also helping experienced teachers, with all teachers on the main pay range seeing their salaries increase by 3.5 per cent this year – 50 per cent higher than inflation. “We know that there is more to do which is why we will publish a strategy later this year to build on our work to make sure teaching remains an attractive and rewarding profession.”
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