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Third of primary school teachers ‘struggling to buy food’ as cost of living crisis sparks fears for education

A third of primary school teachers are struggling to afford food as a result of the cost of living crisis, sparking concerns for children’s education.

In a poll shared exclusively with The Independentnearly 30 per cent said financial pressures were also impacting their ability to do their job well.

Education leaders warned teachers’ struggles in the cost of living crisis could have a knock-on effect on students – both their attainment and wellbeing – and further dwindle a profession already struggling to keep numbers up.

Schools were already losing staff members in search of better pay or a cheaper commute in the cost of living crisis, headteachers said.

“Teachers across the country are crying out, telling us just how much they’re struggling and how the lack of funding is impacting their ability to do their jobs,” Helen Osgood from the education branch of the Community union told The Independent.

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Education leaders warned the situation would not improve unless teachers received a greater pay rise to match soaring inflation.

In the new poll of primary school teachers, one-third said they were struggling to afford food, while half said the same about petrol and one-quarter about clothes.

Seventy per cent said the cost of living crisis was affecting their mental health, according to the survey for Community conducted in summer.

Meanwhile 30 per cent of the hundreds of primary school teachers polled said it was impacting their ability to perform their job well.

Stuart Guest, who runs a primary school in Birmingham, told The Independent the cost of living crisis and its impact on staff was “absolutely” on his radar.

“We are looking at this as a staff and how we can support each other. Already had a few staff identifying they are struggling,” he said.

The Chartered College of Teaching warned the cost of living crisis risked “further exacerbating” a wellbeing crisis within the profession – and this could have a knock-on effect on students.

“Teacher wellbeing is crucial for both student wellbeing and attainment,” the professional body for teachers said, adding research shows high-quality teaching is the “single most important in-school factor for student outcomes”.

“There is a real risk of teaching professionals being driven out of the sector and in a context of already poor recruitment and retention, this raises real concerns.”

Simon Kidwell, the headteacher of a primary school in Cheshire, said he was about to lose a teaching assistant to a better-paid job outside the state education sector. “Ella She could n’t afford the bills.”

Education unions marched for pay rises in the cost of living crisis earlier this year (Yui Mok/PA)

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Education unions marched for pay rises in the cost of living crisis earlier this year (Yui Mok/PA)

(PA Wire)

He added: “I’m hearing colleagues who have got people moving to supermarkets to work there.”

Pepe Di’Iasio, a secondary school headteacher in Rotherham, said a colleague had recently seen a member of staff move to a school closer to home to save on petrol.

Most teachers have been offered a 5 per cent pay rise this year, which stands below soaring rates of inflation. Other public sector workers have been given similar increases.

Education unions called the offer “unacceptable” and “another huge cut” in real teams as energy bills and food prices continued to rocket.

School support staff were offered a flat pay increase which amounts to 10.5 per cent for the lowest paid and 4 per cent for the highest paid.

Tiffinie Harris from the Association for School and College Leaders echoed concerns the cost of living crisis could see the education workforce dwindle further.

“Like the rest of the population, teachers are now being hit by very high levels of inflation which will put them under further financial pressure, and this increases the risk that more will quit teaching and seek better paid employment elsewhere,” she said.

“Teacher pay must be improved to make teaching a more attractive long-term career choice and ensure that schools are able to put teachers in front of classes,” Ms Harris said.

“And the government must provide schools with the funding that they need to afford the cost of pay awards for their staff rather than expecting this money to come from existing budgets.”

“Without this action there is a serious risk to educational standards, let alone any chance of improving them.”

The Department for Education has been approached for comment.