Monday, October 14, 2019

UK Teachers are in Dire Straits

In Malaysia, many income-earners are struggling to make ends meet. With a soaring cost-of-living and stagnant salaries – many Malaysians are grappling to eke out a decent living. 

But we are not alone. 

I just read a scary news report today in The Independent that UK teachers are in dire straits. There are those who are living in sheds and in cars and eating out of food banks as the number of professionals seeking vital financial support surges. 

According to the Education Support Partnership, a charity that provides emergency grants, hundreds of teachers and support staff are at risk of losing their home or being unable to pay rent. 

The number of teachers applying for cash handouts for housing from the charity rose by 67 percent between 2016 and 2018 – and the charity expects applications to reach a record high this year. 

Education unions say a real-terms decline in teachers’ pay, at a time when housing and childcare costs have soared, is to blame for the rising number of education professionals seeking help. 

The British online newspaper narrated one teacher, who had applied for financial support for a rental deposit from the charity, lived in a friend’s shed with her daughter as she could not find anywhere affordable to live. 

The charity has also noted a rise in the number of teachers seeking help for school uniforms for their own children and being forced to use food banks. 

In fact, figures provided to The Independent show the said charity had received 832 applications for housing grants from teachers in 2018, compared to 661 in 2017 and 498 in 2016. A rising trend. 

The figures available for this year so far – received in the nine months between January and September – already stand at 648. 

Richard Faulkner, head of policy at Education Support Partnership, said he has read “very distressing” applications from teachers “living in their car” and surviving on just £15 a week once rent and bills are paid. 

“People don’t expect teachers to be homeless and they don’t expect them to be getting the majority of their food from food banks. This is the reality we are seeing on an increasingly frequent basis”, he said. 

The majority of applications come from teachers working in education in the southeast of England – and low salaries of teachers play a significant part in a number of cases, Faulkner added. 

More teachers could quit the profession in areas where living costs are so high unless urgent action is taken by the government, the charity warned. 

Kim Knappett, joint president of the National Education Union, has heard of more reports of teachers and school staff using food banks in the past twelve months. 

Already, a study from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development last month concluded that teachers’ pay in the UK is below the international average. 

The minimum salary for teachers in England and Wales, excluding London, is £23,720, while the minimum for Inner London is £29,664. 

Knappett recognizes that housing costs are going up and up. “People are trying to buy school uniforms, clothes and food from a diminishing pot of leftover money”, she says. 

Truly, a sad state of affairs for teachers!

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