Norfolk teachers spending own money on buying children food and spare underwear, survey shows

PUBLISHED: 12:00 27 February 2018 | UPDATED: 12:00 27 February 2018

Teachers in Norfolk and Waveney are having to spend more money on classrooms and materials. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Teachers in Norfolk and Waveney are having to spend more money on classrooms and materials. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

The vast majority of teachers in Norfolk are emptying their own pockets to buy classroom supplies, textbooks and even food for struggling families, a survey suggests.

Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

In a survey of 55 teachers from around Norfolk and Waveney, 51 - 93pc - said they had spent their own money on goods, stationery, books and materials for classrooms in the last year, while 34 - 62pc - had bought items for children, such as food and drink.

Items ranged from books, toys and games to spare underwear, clothes and breakfasts for children.

It comes as schools struggle to make ends meet, with a boom in pupil numbers and rising costs not matched by funding.

In the survey, one teacher said the school’s curriculum was even being altered by a lack of funding: “We are actually having to change what we are teaching due to a lack money for resources. Last term we wanted to do textiles but couldn’t afford to buy the felt ourselves.”

Another said they spend roughly £50 a month buying books for children to read.

They said: “This is common across the school and totally unsustainable. My academy trust has been able to find the money to employ people to crunch data but not for the provision of books for the school.”

Jonathan Rice, a Norfolk headteacher and from Educate Norfolk, which represents the county’s school leaders, said, to some degree, teachers had always gone the extra mile financially for their pupils.

“It’s a vocation for most people and I have done it myself,” he said. “However, the response here is something different altogether. Teachers are being put in an impossible situation, particularly when things they are buying are a necessity rather than a choice.”

Caister Junior School headteacher Jonathan Rice. Picture: Ian Burt Caister Junior School headteacher Jonathan Rice. Picture: Ian Burt

He said the body would want to support heads in discouraging teachers from buying their own materials, warning it could be “the thin end of the wedge”, and urged parents to write to MPs with concern over the funding crisis.

“If a teacher has real need in front of them in terms of a child going hungry, their natural reaction is to help,” he said. “But it can’t become something that is expected.”

The majority of respondents, 42pc, said they were doing so on a monthly basis, while 29pc said it was happening every few months and 17pc said it was happening weekly.

MORE: Headteachers in Norfolk and Suffolk reveal extent of funding crisis in our survey

Deprived families rely on schools

Answers to the survey showed that teachers are even relied upon to help families struggling to buy food.

Stocks of food at a Foodbank. Picture: PA Archive/PA Images Stocks of food at a Foodbank. Picture: PA Archive/PA Images

Several teachers said they had bought children food in the past year.

One said: “In the past I’ve bought food for families who would otherwise struggle as they’ve had their Foodbank allocation. We’re in the job because we care. I can’t see others suffer when I can help.”

They said it had caused arguments at home but said: “If I don’t help, then who else will?”

Another said their school provided spare clothes and handed out Foodbank tokens.

Food bank. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire Food bank. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Concerns over holiday hunger are ongoing, with research suggesting pressure on food banks doubles during the holidays.

One study said children returned to school in a worse educational and health state than when they left.

Earlier this month, a Scottish council approved a scheme to provide free school meals every day of the year to children from low-income households.

What teachers said

Teachers were asked to leave their thoughts on buying materials for school.

One said while they weren’t personally paying for items, their school still goes the extra mile - for example, giving spare uniform to children in need or paying for new shoes.

Another said it was “important to just allow a child to feel normal”, and that sometimes that was most achievable through helping them financially.

“There is no school budget available to support a creative and exciting curriculum,” one said. “Not all teachers use their own money but I want the children in my class to be inspired and engaged and often that costs money for resources.”

Another said if they didn’t spend money their classroom would be “almost bare and the children’s learning and experiences would suffer”.

Several long-standing teachers and heads said they had been buying things for classrooms for much of their career.

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