Secret Teacher: I’m working full time but struggling to make ends meet

I’m a primary school teacher and I love my job. Despite the long hours – 12 hours a day Monday to Friday and most of the afternoon on a Sunday – the rewards are significant. I had various jobs before coming to the profession and they didn’t come close to giving me the sense of achievement I now feel. My colleagues and I are working hard to improve the life chances of children. But the sad reality is that I can barely afford to do this job. The Secret Teacher writes in The Guardian.

I’m a single parent of two young children and it’s almost impossible to sustain living near my school in London. I earn £32,000 a year, and my rent – the cheapest I could find in a one-mile radius of work – is £1,250 a month. After tax and student loans, my take-home pay is about £24,000. My rent eats up 60% of that. Then there’s council tax, gas, electricity, internet, food and clothes to pay for. With one week left until pay day, it’s quite normal for me to be able to count the number of pounds I have left in my account on two hands. Christmas is a particularly difficult time of the year.

A recent survey by the OECD showed that teachers’ salaries in England were worth 12% less in 2015 than in 2005. In other countries, teachers’ pay has gone up in absolute terms – by an average of 10% at pre-primary level and 6% at primary schools; the rate of growth is slower, but up, in secondaries. England and Scotland (where there has been a 6% decline) are the notable exceptions. It’s hard not to think teaching children isn’t valued by those in charge, especially when the pay gap between heads and teachers has dramatically widened.

Low wages and high rents are an obvious factor in teacher retention and staff instability in schools. Perhaps more long-term vision is needed here – after all, a high staff turnover and reliance on supply staff is expensive for schools.

The impact on me and my children is considerable. I want to settle in the area and put down roots – for my family and my career. I’d love to buy a house but don’t have anything to put towards a deposit. The various government schemes to help key workers or first-time buyers appear impossible to penetrate, since what’s on offer usually seems unsuitable for my family situation or unrealistically expensive.

With a seemingly unsympathetic government, and schools juggling near impossible budgets, it’s not clear what the future is for my profession. Once again, the target for training new teachers has not been met, at a time when more teachers are needed. In discussing the recruitment crisis, there has been a significant emphasis on teachers’ workloads causing stress and anxiety, but the issue of teacher pay must not be overlooked. My job is stressful, my hours are long, and I work with children in some very desperate situations. Shouldn’t I be adequately compensated for it? Maybe if that happened, we would have motivated, settled teachers who will remain in schools.

Read the full article Secret Teacher: I’m working full time but struggling to make ends meet

Are you in the same situation? Is the low pay pushing you out of your career? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin 

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