As the cost of living rises, many teachers are struggling to make ends meet. According to The NASUWT, the Teachers’ Union, the financial squeeze has forced many teachers to rely on credit cards, overdrafts, and sometimes even foodbanks. Such precarity can lead to increased stress levels, poor wellbeing, and reduced job satisfaction.
So, how can school governors support teachers during this difficult time and ensure schools retain their valued staff? We’ve put together the following advice to help existing and prospective governors ask the right questions in board meetings:
- Promote financial support: In some cases, governors may need to take a more personalised approach to support teachers experiencing financial difficulties. This could involve referring teachers and staff to charities such as The Teaching Staff Trust (TST), who offer financial aid in the form of hardship grants. Education Support also offer grants and run a support line for teachers who are struggling. While financial worries can be a sensitive and private matter, school governors may consider working with school leaders to signpost free debt advice and resources to staff. This could include services such as the National Debtline and/or Citizens Advice.
- Reassure teachers that school budgets will cover resources: According to a recent report from Education Support, 41% of secondary school teachers have purchased supplies such as pens and paper for their pupils, while 26% have prepared food for pupils who didn’t have any. To prevent this practice, governors should support schools in budgeting for basic needs. For example, leaders could look to share bigger resources between schools or address student hunger through breakfast club schemes.
- Empower teachers to speak up: One of the most powerful ways school governors can support teachers is by raising awareness of the issue. Some teachers may not feel comfortable discussing their financial difficulties with colleagues or line managers at present. However, if the issue is openly acknowledged, they may feel more empowered to speak up. Governors can encourage such conversations by promoting open dialogue, setting up forums where teachers can share their experiences, and even providing training on financial management.
- Consider additional well-being support for staff: Another key way that governors can support teachers is by considering external wellbeing support for teachers and staff, such as the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). Although such platforms may incur a cost, they offer a range of services, including financial planning advice, counselling, and personal support which, in turn, could improve the overall wellbeing of staff and reduce staff turnover. If budgets do not allow for any additional investment, the school could become an advocate for signposting free mental health support. This could include services such as the NHS, or mental health charity Mind.
- Look at simple strategic change: There are several simple changes schools can implement to reduce financial burdens on teachers. For example, holding inset days or planning, preparation, and assessment (PPA) sessions online could help avoid travel costs. Similarly, you could promote car sharing practices or discourage the exchange of gifts between staff and students at the end of the year. Instead, consider other, less expensive ways to celebrate the end of the summer term.
The impact of the cost of living crisis is affecting many teachers. However, by raising awareness of the issue, promoting additional support and providing personalised support, governors can help to alleviate some of the financial strain and create a more supportive environment.
Catch up with the rest of our Counting the Cost campaign
For more support on what to ask during your board meetings through the cost of living crisis, please read our ‘Questions for Governors’ guide. You can also catch up on previous resources from our Counting the Cost campaign page, including weekly podcasts, campaign articles, and video content.
This article – along with our other Counting the Cost resources – was made possible through the generous sponsorship of Allen & Overy.