The responsibility of buying resources falls on teachers: Stories from the front line

Ninety-four percent of teaching staff in schools around the UK pay for essential classroom materials, according to a recent survey in TES. Although these are resources that schools should have the budget to pay for, the funding cuts are causing a huge strain on school budgets and the responsibility is falling on teachers to pay for them out of pocket instead.

More and more stories of teachers having to pay for books, pencils and other items are making it into the media every day. One teacher, from the Isle of Wight, looked back on the days of teachers claiming back expenses for supplies they had to purchase:

“What used to happen is that if you bought something for your department, you were able to claim it back. But the process today is so arduous and time-consuming that it is simpler just to pay and not claim, rather than ask to be reimbursed only to be ignored.”

The cost of having to fund your own classroom ranges from £50 to almost £6,000 per year, as a teacher from North West England explained:

“Recently, the technician, the head of department and I totalled the receipts of everything we had to buy that the kids needed over the year, above and beyond what the school would give us, and it was £5,500 between us.”

The consequences of not buying classroom materials once the school funding runs out can be cruel. A teacher laid it bare for The Guardian, saying:

“What happens if we don’t buy the required equipment? Then we can’t do the work. We can’t get kids through the project and then they won’t get their GCSE. A lot of schools are binning off technology and vocational subjects because they see it as a financial burden. This means that kids who are better with their hands are getting pushed to one side.”

The effects of underfunding in schools are not only financial. Another teacher from North West England told of her experiences of funding cuts affecting the mental health of students and staff:

“Staff morale is the lowest I have ever known it. Teachers are being stretched in so many different directions. The mental health and safety of students is being compromised and staff are angry that they are powerless to support students.”

A secondary school teacher stated that some teachers are leaving the profession due to the funding crisis: “It is not at all surprising that so many teachers don’t last. On top of that, our pay isn’t keeping pace with inflation and we are getting measured left, right and centre. There’s not a lot left to really keep people in it.”

All of these teachers and so many of their colleagues are crying out for a stop to the budget cuts, saying that they just cannot to do their jobs in the way they are expected to. A teacher from North East England is begging for something to change, and fast:

“Funding year-on-year is going down and costs are going up. Something has to give. It’s as if I have a choice between going out and buying equipment myself, or a member of staff losing their job – which is something that’s happening across the county.”

The recent Channel 4 show Educating Greater Manchester has highlighted the funding issues schools are facing every day.

Teacher Mr Bisham, from the Educating East End show, reviewed the series for TES. He thought the show “was a sobering reminder of the challenges facing schools up and down the country and the blindingly obvious fact that seems to have been lost on our current government: you cannot provide a world-class education to all pupils if you are not willing to fund it.”

On Tuesday 24 October, more than 1,000 campaigners descended on Parliament demanding that the government address school funding issues.

 The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) were one of the many organisers of this movement. Their general secretary, Paul Whiteman, exclaimed that schools are at breaking point and need an extra £2bn per year to avoid a decrease in the quality of education in the UK.

Read our blog on the NAHT’s plea to government here.

BESA’s Resource Our Schools campaign was launched in May to ensure that every child has access to the resources they need to gain a quality education. Teachers, governors, and unions have signed up in support of the campaign. See what they had to say and sign up in support here.