More than half of school support staff are spending their own money on food for hungry children, tampons, pencils and books at cash-strapped schools, a new GMB study shows.
The union, which surveyed thousands of teaching assistants and other support staff, said the stories showed the “desperate situation” schools are facing.
Staff report having to bring toilet paper, plasters, wipes and first aid necessities for their poorly funded schools.
HuffPost UK revealed last week that hundreds of “wish lists” on Amazon’s website carry the names of schools, with many including appeals for people to buy basic supplies ordinarily purchased through everyday budgets.
Recent research by the Association of School and College Leaders found 24% of school bosses said they expect the need for voluntary contributions from parents in order to keep funding mainstream activities.
The GMB’s research show the burden for buying school supplies often falls to the lowest paid members of staff at schools.
Over three quarters of staff told the GMB that their school has been forced to make “significant financial cut backs” as Conservative underfunding of education bites.
In a nationwide survey of members, more than 4,600 school support staff responded to the question “Have you felt obliged to spend your own money on things for the children (food, toilet paper, brought resources from home etc)?”
Barbara Plant, president of the union and a former teaching assistant, called the results of the study “horrifying”.
She said: “A generation of children’s education is being compromised as staff numbers are cut and classes get larger. Meanwhile staff are left out of pocket bringing basic necessities like toilet paper from home.
“Their goodwill is being taken advantage of because they care so much about the children at their schools. The government needs to stop denying that school budgets are being cut – the reality is in front of us.
“If staff cuts continue then many schools will struggle to fulfil their statutory obligations. It’s absolutely vital that schools get the extra funding they need as soon as possible.”
One person who responded to the survey described the challenges their school faces.
“The budget is extremely tight and the kitchen will only prepare a certain amount of food,” the school worker said.
“If the children do not have enough money for a lunch or do not like or drop their lunch, they often do not get another one. I have provided food for these children sometimes. I have also spent my money on books for the library and things for projects in school.
“I also bring in things from my own children as equipment in school is broken or has bits missing. There is no money to replace these items in school so the children go without.”
Another person who responded said: “Due to lack of resources I provide at least 90% of stationery. I regularly provide food and drinks to students. Also toiletries and sanitary products. I regularly clean and repair clothing at home.”
Another member of support staff highlighted the plight of children who are living in poverty. “We have some children under a child protection plan that don’t have any food at home. We buy them food and will cook food to be frozen to see them through the holidays.”
A government spokesman said: “We want all children to have the very best chances in life ... We continue to support the country’s most disadvantaged children through free school meals and are provide schools with £2.5billion through the pupil premium to support their education.”
Previously a spokesperson for the Department for Education told HuffPost UK: “Core school funding will rise to a record £43.5bn by 2020 – the highest ever - and 50% more per pupil in real terms than in 2000. We are giving every local authority more money for every school in 2018-19 and 2019-20. In fact, this year a typical primary class will get £130,000.”