School staff subsidising children’s education to plug the funding gap

Virtually all school staff in England are paying for school resources from their own pockets to plug the funding gap, according to a joint survey by the National Education Union and the TES.

The survey of just over 1,800 school staff in England*, carried out in August and September, revealed that 94% paid for classroom resources or equipment from their own pocket in the last school year, with a third (33%) saying they spent more last year than in previous years. Nearly two-thirds (61%) said they did so because their school did not have enough funds.

Over a quarter (26%) of them spent between £101 and £500 of their own money on school resources last year and nearly a third (31%) between £51 and £100. Seven in ten (73%) said they paid for stationery, nearly six in ten (58%) said they bought books and four in ten (43%) bought art materials.

Nearly four in ten (39%) respondents said their school asked parents for money to help with school funding last year. Two-thirds (68%) said their school asked parents to pay to attend school concerts and sports events, over a fifth (22%) said school had asked parents to pay for books, with similar numbers asking parents to pay for design technology (22%) and art materials (21%).

Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: “Staff have always been willing to spend some of their own money for the odd item such as prizes for children, but the funding cuts are digging deep. This is making it hard for schools to manage without being subsidised by staff and parents. Parents should not be expected to pay for their children’s education or risk their children missing out on school trips or seeing them perform in school sports if they cannot afford to pay. And it is wrong to rely on the good will of staff, who have seen their own pay fall over the past ten years, to meet the shortfall. The Government needs to fund schools adequately so children can enjoy a full curriculum in properly resourced schools.”

Head of English in a south coast secondary school, experiencing big cuts, said: “We are being asked to pay for paper towels to dry hands and wipe up spillages. We are also increasingly bringing in our own computers as there is no money to update the aged machines in the school. We look back with nostalgia on the days when the school provided tea, coffee and even food before parents' evenings and when we had cutting edge technology in our classrooms.”

A head of department in a secondary school said: “I buy the green pens, board cloths and plastic wallets for the department as we don't have enough money in the budget. I have had to buy food for students staying for coursework and revision sessions and equipment for activities days.”

A primary teacher said: “There is a constant shortage and rationing of paper and laminating sheets and it’s just simpler to buy your own than fight for basics. Our school has no money, so there’s no point asking for reimbursement for displays or classroom expenditure.”

A head of department in a secondary school said: “We have recently been asked to ‘buy back’ our laptops as the lease had expired and there were no funds. Teachers had access to computers for registration reports, but had to provide their own for online work or preparing work.”

A teacher in a secondary school said: “Just fed up of having to buy pens, pencils, protractors, and at least 10 sets of scientific calculators. This year I even had to buy text books.”

A member of the leadership team in a primary school said: “Previously we have not asked parents for donations to supplement school funding but we will be this year. I think we are asking for a donation of £5 per family each term.”

A teacher in a primary school said: “The school couldn't subsidise school trips so parents were asked to pay. It was made clear that they should be paying even though the fact that it is voluntary was mentioned, it was not emphasised enough.”


*The National Education Union surveyed 1,854 members working in state-funded primary and secondary schools in England in August and September.

Key stats:

In the past academic year did you pay for classroom resources/equipment from your own pocket? (1,854 responses)

Yes – 93.69%

No – 6.31%

If yes, how much did you spend? (1,737 responses)

Up to £10


Between £11 and £50


Between £51 and £100


Between 101 and £500


Between £501 and £1,000


More than £1,000



Is this more or less than in previous years? (1,722 responses)








What sort of items have you paid for? Please mark all that apply (1,742 responses)



Items for displays




IT equipment


Art materials


Sports equipment


Prizes for pupils





Why did you pay for items for your students? Please mark all that apply. (1,738 responses)

Not enough funds


Items not deemed essential by the school


I think the items are essential for the job


Items make learning more engaging





In the past academic year, did your school ask parents/carers for money to help with school funding? (1,822 responses)





Don’t know



In the past academic year, did your school invite parents/carers to pay for any of the following? (Please mark all that apply)





IT equipment


Art materials


Design technology


Sports equipment


Attendance at concerts/sports events




Press release
22 September 2017