Exclusive: Teachers are spending hundreds of pounds a year on classroom supplies

Some teachers are setting up direct debits and donating more than £1,000 in cash to their schools

Adi Bloom

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The vast majority of teachers are having to pay for essential classroom supplies themselves, because their schools lack sufficient funds, a Tes survey reveals.

Many of them are spending hundreds of pounds of their own money to ensure that their classrooms are properly stocked.

A Tes survey of more than 1,800 teachers, conducted jointly with the NEU teaching union, reveals that 94 per cent are having to pay for school essentials such as books, stationery and storage equipment.

And two-thirds of the teachers polled said that they had been forced to pay for items or contribute cash because their schools were so short of funds.

“This is a terrible indictment of where we are, in terms of school funding,” said Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders. “that teachers are paying for this out of their own pockets – and we all know about teachers’ pay. It shouldn’t be like that.”

'A regular feature of the job'

Almost three-quarters – 73 per cent – of those surveyed said that they regularly purchased stationery items, such as pens, pencils and board markers. Fifty-eight per cent had paid for books. And 43 per cent had paid for art materials.

One respondent said: “I need resources to create the 'wow' factor for my lessons…and there is so much pressure on us not to spend the school budget.”

A third of teachers surveyed said that they spent more of their own money on equipment and resources last year than they had previously.

Andrew Morris, NEU assistant general secretary with responsibility for pay and conditions, said: “Even teachers in their first year of teaching are becoming used to the idea that they have to pay for necessary resources. It’s being regarded as a regular feature of the job.”


Some teachers are even being asked to make termly donations, for example via direct debit. One in six said that they had made cash donations to their schools, with some giving more than £1,000 in one year.

“It’ll give the government cover from having to increase funding to the extent that it should do,” Morris said. “There’s a big step-change between ‘We haven’t got the cash to let you buy things’ and ‘We haven’t got cash – give us some of your money'.”

Last week, education secretary Justine Greening confirmed details of the new national funding formula, stating that every school could expect its budget to rise by at least 1 per cent. But unions argue that this will not be enough to deal with rising costs and the severe real-terms cuts of recent years.

More than two-thirds of teachers polled also said that their schools were having to charge parents to attend their children's school concerts and sports events. This comes on the day that a separate survey carried out by PTA UK shows that parents are increasingly being asked to pay for basic items such as toilet paper.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "Our new fairer-funding formula will replace the outdated funding system which saw our children have very different amounts invested in their education, purely because of where they were growing up."

This is an edited article from the 22 September edition of Tes. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week's Tes magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

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