There can be no doubt that families the length and breadth of the country are facing a profound cost of living crisis.
Rocketing fuel and energy bills, forecasts of double-digit inflation, and rising interest rates mean misery for many families. And unless there is urgent action from Government the situation is only going to get worse.
Teachers and schools leaders do not need to be reminded of the stark effects of this crisis on their pupils and in their own lives.
They see it every day in their schools and in their classrooms. Children whose parents find themselves in insecure jobs who are struggling to make ends meet. Many relying on food banks and struggling to pay their bills and keep their children clothed and fed. Hungry pupils can’t concentrate on their learning and the knock-on effects on behaviour are making a challenging job more stressful as teachers deal with the fallout.
Schools are struggling to deal with the fallout as they find themselves taking on more of the roles to try and support them, roles which were often supported by local authorities but have been stripped back due to more than a decade of austerity.
The job of teaching has become even more challenging, as a consequence of deep cuts to school budgets, the loss of vital support for children and families and a crisis of teacher and headteacher recruitment and retention.
Despite ministers’ promises to protect education, in the last decade, education spending has fallen by 10%. And the salaries of teachers has fallen too - across the board, teachers’ pay has been slashed by at least 19% since 2010.
Many teachers tell us they are relying on credit cards, overdrafts and some are even using the foodbanks their pupils’ parents rely on as well. Around one in ten teachers work second jobs and many more are worried about their financial situation.
But as if the cost of living crisis affecting teachers wasn’t enough there is a wellbeing crisis as well caused by extreme workload pressures and teachers’ deepening financial worries.
However, at the DfE, in the ironically named ‘Sanctuary Buildings’, Ministers are presiding over a system where teachers and headteachers are at breaking point. Unless action is taken now, a desperate situation is set to become even worse.
Already, 1 in 3 student teachers choose not to enter the profession after they have qualified because of the stress of the job and 40% of new teachers leave within 5 years.
The latest data from our own longitudinal ‘Big Question’ survey found that two-thirds of teachers are seriously considering quitting the profession – citing workload, wellbeing and pay as key reasons.
The Government is fiddling in the wake of an epic recruitment and retention crisis and a crisis in relation to leadership succession – more headteachers leaving and fewer and fewer teachers wanting to take their place.
Perhaps not surprisingly nine in ten teachers we surveyed report that their job has adversely impacted their mental health in the last 12 months and a disturbing 3% have self-harmed and are experiencing a severe mental health crisis because of the job.
And on top of that we have the growing problem of Long Covid which is a ticking time-bomb in our schools.
That’s why the NASUWT is calling for A Better Deal For Teachers on workload, wellbeing and pay.
As part of our campaign, we are calling on the Government to recognise that a world-class education system needs highly motivated teachers working in world-class schools and colleges.
To that end we want to see a substantial real-terms pay rise for every teacher, an enforceable contractual working time limit for teachers, the right to switch off and disconnect from work at the end of the day and at weekends, the ending of fire and rehire practices, banning zero-hours contracts, equal rights for supply teachers scrapping the link between performance and teachers’ pay, and safer workplaces underpinned by safe and respectful working practices.
And, we will be highlighting these and demands at the national demonstration that takes place in London on 18th June where teachers and workers from across the public and private sectors will be demanding action on the cost of living crisis, a decent pay rise for workers and a better deal for all working people.
It’s time for the Government to understand that the situation needs to change. Teachers are demanding change and so are parents and the general public. Spread the word: be there on June 18th - join us, join in, and help win a better deal for teachers.
More information about the national demonstration can be found here.
Author: Dr Patrick Roach