Aussie teachers splash $150m on struggling kids
Exclusive: Teachers are spending thousands of dollars of their own money to buy classroom supplies for parents too poor to pay for books, pencils and school excursions.
A new Australian Education Union (AEU) survey of 12,000 state school teachers and principals has revealed they spent a whopping $150 million of their own money to buy basic school supplies in the past year.
Each teacher spent an average of $874 on essential school supplies such as stationery, with primary teachers averaging $1067.
One in four teachers spent more than $1000 of their own money - and 12 per cent spent more than $2000.
Most of the money was spent on stationery, such as pencils and exercise books for students too poor to buy them.
Some generous teachers even chipped in to pay for school excursions for students who would otherwise miss out.
Teachers reached into their own pockets to buy classroom equipment, textbooks, play equipment or support for individual students.
Seven per cent of teachers donated money for students to attend excursions with their classmates.
AEU president Correna Haythorpe said teachers were spending at least $150 million a year of their own cash on "essential supplies'' in government-funded schools.
"Teachers spend their own money because they care about their students and don't want to shift these additional costs onto parents,'' she said.
"They don't want their students to potentially miss out when government funding doesn't stretch as far as it should.''
The AEU's survey of 9733 teachers, 1787 support staff and 787 principals in May reveals that a quarter of government schools are fundraising to pay for basic school maintenance, and 8 per cent have to raise money to support students with a disability.
Ms Haythorpe said principals and teachers were spending valuable time fundraising, when they should be spending time teaching students or preparing lesson plans.
"Teachers should not be spending time organising sausage sizzles and other fundraising events - their time should be spent on teaching and learning,'' she said.
"Teachers and principals should be given time to do their jobs properly and the resources to teach students.''
About half of all government schools across Australia have to raise money for play and sports equipment, textbooks and basic library resources, the survey shows.
More than a third raise money for computers, and more than a quarter rely on fundraising events to pay for basic maintenance.
Schools from wealthier communities are more likely to run fundraising events than schools in poorer suburbs, where parents are too poor to donate.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics there were 206,784 teachers working in public schools in 2019.
'MANY FAMILIES ARE STRUGGLING'
Primary schoolteacher Natalie Montague-Clarke keeps a stash of stationery in her garage for students who run out of exercise books and pencils during the year.
She spends as much as $1000 a year on school supplies - especially when teaching in suburbs with high unemployment.
"A lot of families are struggling and they just don't have the money,'' she said.
"I look at the kids and think, 'This is not your fault, so what can I do to make things easier?'''
Ms Montague-Clarke, who is teaching part-time at Brisbane school, said the costs quickly add up.
"I find I'm buying a lot of stationery - pens, pencils and books - and a lot of resources to enhance learning,'' she said.
"We did a science unit and I bought a whole lot of soil and pots and seeds.
"I've bought a lot of posters for spelling and multiplication, and reward charts which I've had laminated.''
Originally published as Aussie teachers splash $150m on struggling kids