Why must a professional moonlight below stairs?

22nd September 1995 at 01:00
David Budge meets a teacher who takes on extra work out of hours. Jane Elton has learned to bite her tongue when education is discussed at the exclusive London dinner parties she attends.

Having taught in primary schools for more than 20 years she has a lot to say on the subject, but she just smiles demurely and proffers the broccoli. After all, as a part-time waitress, that's what she is there to do.

"Some teachers would probably find such work demeaning - I wash up after the dinner parties too - but it doesn't bother me. Most people treat you with respect. Tony Blair, who is a regular guest of a couple I work for, once came into the kitchen to thank us all. It was very good PR."

Jane, a divorcee in her mid-fifties, is one of the large - but unquantifiable - number of teachers who "moonlight" either to make ends meet or pay for the luxuries that a classroom teacher's salary cannot provide. Government statistics suggest that 1,184,000 people had two jobs last winter - a 9. 3 per cent increase in one year. But Jane isn't included in any of these new calculations.

Although a highly moral person in other respects she does not declare her extra earnings and, in any case, she has been picking up extra-curricular cash for more than 15 years.

In addition to the Saturday night dinner-party work, she tutors two children after school and sells cosmetics. "The waitressing doesn't pay particularly well - Pounds 4 an hour plus a mileage allowance - but it's more enjoyable than the home tuition which I charge Pounds 10 an hour for. Parents always want you to teach children straight after school, which can be very tiring. As for the cosmetics ... it's no hard sell. I earn about Pounds 30 a month by dealing with my friends, neighbours and colleagues. I give them the catalogue, but I don't expect a sale every time."

Jane dipped a tentative toe into the moonlighting business back in the 1970s by joining a baby-sitting agency. Her two children were then teenagers and money was desperately tight as her former husband has provided virtually no financial support. "He gave us Pounds 3 a week when we separated more than 25 years ago but that was only enough to feed and clothe one child. Even then the clothes came from jumble sales and I was never able to buy any 'extras'. Not even a bottle of lemonade for the children."

At first, the income from part-time jobs was therefore used "just to keep our heads above water", but later it gave Jane the confidence to take out a Pounds 15,000 mortgage on her former council house.

Today, with a top-of-the-scale salary of just over Pounds 20,000 and only one of her children still at home it might seem as if she does not need the extra work. But she feels she does. "I may seem relatively well-off but there's little left of my salary after the standing charges have been paid. The car is another heavy expense, but teachers have to have one because there are so many books to carry to and from school.

"Teachers were relatively well off after the Houghton award but we're certainly not overpaid now. I spend two hours, four nights a week, on schoolwork, and often Sunday afternoon and evening too. I therefore have to cut back on my extra jobs during term-time."

There is, however, no chance of her giving up moonlighting because she is now saving hard for her retirement which is four years off. As Jane was a late entrant to teaching she will have a smaller pension than some of her peers, but she is trying to plump up her financial cushion through additional voluntary contributions - "I can't afford to take full advantage of AVCs but I have at least doubled my pension payments." She also has a 10-year insurance policy with Teachers' Assurance that should produce a lump sum of Pounds 8,000-Pounds 9,000 in 1999.

Even so, Jane envisages that she will have to carry on working perhaps a day a week as a supply teacher after she retires. "Nevertheless, I am determined to have at least one good holiday when the policy matures because I've only been abroad once since I started teaching - you don't count the Isle of Wight as abroad, do you ? I've got a PO brochure offering Alaskan cruises on my bedside table. It has sent me to sleep with a smile on my face on many a night. "

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