New research finds over 50% of education staff spend own earnings on classroom supplies

  • 50% of education staff spending their own money to purchase supplies and materials for the classroom
  • One in five education workers are picking up a side hustle as the cost of living continues to rise
  • 78% of respondents have restricted turning the heating whilst 64% are foregoing putting money into savings accounts

A new survey exploring the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on education staff in the UK has revealed over 50% of workers have spent their own earnings on supplies for the classroom. Of those respondents buying materials, almost 24% find themselves regularly purchasing materials, with 28% doing so occasionally.


The survey, by membership service Discounts for Teachers, polled over 1,000 workers from across the education sector, to highlight the financial struggles affecting educators’ day-to-day lives. Discounts for Teachers is calling for greater support to help incentivise the sector and keep quality teachers in schools.


With respondents spanning schoolteachers to catering staff, and university lecturers to nursery workers, a further one in five have picked up a side hustle as prices continue to rise. Amongst these additional jobs, education staff cited tutoring at weekends, working in supermarkets, babysitting and administration work, on top of their overstretched workloads.


Over 75% of respondents also said the current economic climate is having a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing. For a sector facing wellbeing and recruitment challenges, these findings underline the risk that today’s financial pressures pose to retaining good quality education staff.


Beyond impacting their work in the classroom and ability to support students, the research further highlights where staff have made cutbacks at home. A significant 78% of respondents have restricted turning the heating whilst 64% are foregoing putting money into savings accounts, because of skyrocketing energy bills, and 16% said they have made the biggest cutbacks in groceries and food.


Small luxuries such as restaurant and cinema trips have also taken a hit, with 80% of respondents foregoing dining out in order to save money.


Colette, teacher at Carronshore Primary School in Falkirk, Scotland, said:

“With the current cost-of-living crisis, I think it is really valuable for teachers to have access to discount schemes that enable us to make savings on things that make us feel good. Recently, I have saved money on holiday trips where I have been able to spend quality time with my family. I feel that this is really important for your wellbeing.”


Strikingly, many respondents said the current cost-of-living crisis has impacted their ability to take industrial action, with a quarter saying it had completely affected their ability to strike. This emphasises the increasingly difficult position individuals working in the sector are facing. 


The economic climate has also shifted educators’ holiday habits, with 60% of respondents going on holiday less often, and 12% opting to take a break somewhere local.


Further key findings from the survey include:

  • Almost 40% of surveyed members have switched supermarkets in order to reduce their food shop bill
  • Further sectors where education staff are making the greatest cutbacks include fashion and clothing (20%)
  • Other small luxuries that educators are cutting back on include phone and laptop upgrades and theatre trips.

Storm Postlethwaite, CEO of Discounts for Teachers, said:

We know that education workers have been hit particularly hard by the current cost-of-living crisis. Our research shows that the crisis manifests two-fold for educators; not only are they facing increased cost pressures in their personal lives, but they are also buying resources for their classes, due to ever-increasingly stretched school budgets.


The data we have produced also demonstrates the impact this is having on the mental health and wellbeing of staff. It is important for the sustainability of the sector that these issues are addressed in the long term with greater support and incentives, to help retain talented educators. Leaders can only extend their budgets so far and provide other means of support for their staff. We’re working to support the sector by connecting education staff with discounts and offers from retailers – to go some way towards alleviating the financial pressures they’re under. With the current recruitment and retention crisis putting increasing strain on the sector, a long-term solution is vital if the sector is going to survive.