A growing number of teachers are on the verge of homelessness, figures shared with Tes reveal.
As well as causing hardship for teachers, unaffordable housing has also been blamed for fuelling the crisis in teacher recruitment and retention.
The situation has become so serious that senior figures in politics and education are pressing the government to intervene to secure affordable housing for teachers.
According to figures shared with Tes by the Education Support Partnership (ESP), a charity that provides mental health and wellbeing support to education staff in the UK, the number of teachers it has helped who are threatened by homelessness is on track to more than double this year.
Last year, the charity helped 300 people experiencing a financial crisis relating to housing. Halfway through this financial year, the figure had already reached 350. “We’ve seen a real surge in teachers applying to our grants scheme in the major cities and areas where pressure on housing and living costs are high,” an ESP spokeswoman said.
One of those helped by the charity was Tara, a teacher in Bath. A single mother, she faced the prospect of homelessness earlier this year when her landlord unexpectedly terminated her tenancy.
When she spoke to local estate agents, she was told that on her salary and as a single breadwinner, no landlord would rent to her.
“I had this sudden and horrible realisation that being a teacher meant that, actually, I was pushed out of the market,” she told Tes.
A housing association found a house for her three weeks before she was due to be made homeless, but Tara said the “terrifying” experience had taken an “enormous” emotional toll on her and her daughter, who was supposed to be preparing for her GCSEs during the ordeal.
Tom, a primary teacher who lives in Leyton, East London, was also helped by the ESP. A single parent with two children aged 6 and 9, he found that no matter how much he budgeted, his basic outgoings outstripped his pay.
He received a grant towards his rent and council tax earlier this year when he was on the verge of going into arrears. Tom estimated that 80 per cent of his pay was swallowed up by the £1,250 monthly rent, which paid for what he described as a “pretty grotty two-bed flat”.
Soaring house prices
The increasing unaffordability of housing for many teachers is the result of soaring house prices in some parts of the country, combined with seven years of public sector pay restraint.
Analysis by Tes shows the extent to which the salary of a newly qualified teacher working in London has fallen, relative to average house prices in the capital.
The average London house price in November 2010 stood at £282,290, but by September 2017 it has risen to £483,568. Meanwhile, in 2010 a teacher working in an Inner London school was entitled to a minimum salary of £27,000 on the main pay scale, but seven years later this had only increased to £28,660.
As a result of these changes, an Inner London NQTs salary has fallen from 9.6 per cent of the average London house price in 2010 to just 5.9 per cent today.
It is feared that unaffordable housing in the south of England is fuelling the crisis in recruitment and retention. Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrats' education spokeswoman, told Tes that at the Oxford primary where she is a governor, housing is one of the biggest reasons why the school is losing teachers.
Ms Moran also said that it added "massively to teacher workload and stress", because those teachers who stayed at the school were often forced to live "really far away" to afford a house.
According to survey findings published last week by the NAHT headteachers’ union, “high housing and living costs” was the third most common factor cited by school leaders as to why they struggle to recruit NQTs.
This year, nearly a third (32 per cent) of respondents mentioned this factor, compared with just under a quarter (24 per cent) in 2014.
The Department for Education said it was taking action to ease teacher recruitment problems. A spokesperson said: “We continue to invest significant sums in teacher recruitment with £1.3 billion up to 2020 being invested in teacher bursaries to attract the best and brightest into the profession.”
The Education Support Partnership has launched a Christmas campaign to help education staff threatened by homelessness, which you can support here.
This is an edited article from the 1 December 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