Should teachers have to pay for basic school items?

Should teachers have to pay for basic school items?

While the Federal Government’s recent $19bn school funding commitment has been broadly welcomed, many schools meanwhile continue to struggle with significant resourcing issues.

In January, a study revealed that 92% of teachers surveyed say they’ve had to spend their own money – in some cases more than $1,000 per year – on essential classroom materials such as exercise books, pens and scissors.

But should teachers and principals really have to pay for such items?

Miranda Public School principal, Glen Carter, told The Educator that when he posed the question to staff at his school, the response was almost unanimous.

“I asked quite a few of my staff the question: ‘Should teachers and principals pay for basic resources?’ The response was a resounding ‘No’,” Carter said, adding that as they listed the different items that they've purchased to support their students, their question in reply was: ‘What defines a basic resource?’

“I think public schools have been so under resourced for so long, that, as caring educators who want to provide the best resources for their students, we have just gotten into the habit of buying things out of our own pocket.”

Carter likened the situation to “ambulance officers or nurses paying for medical supplies”, or “librarians having to personally supply their library’s own books”.

David Roy, a senior lecturer at the University of Newcastle, told The Educator that whilst employers should provide resources, teachers have provided materials “since time immemorial”.

“Too often a resource is suddenly recognised as being needed, and the procurement process is not speedy enough for immediate need,” Roy said.

“If purchasing items for class, teachers should keep receipts and claim it back, having already received a manager’s approval. Of course if managers don’t approve a purchase, what is a teacher to do? That is an individual choice, but at the current low wage I’d argue no.”

added that schools should be better resourced, and education systems more flexible in their usage of money.

“However, it should all be accountable, which sadly it doesn’t always appear to be,” he said.

Stacey King, who is the head of maths at Mabel Park High School in Queensland, told The Educator that in her experience, there has never been an expectation for staff to pay for basic school resources.

King said that in the first 10 years or so of her teaching career, it was a necessity for staff to purchase many of the classroom resources as the schools were severely under-resourced.

“It has improved over the years and at my school, for instance, there is now a budget for the purchasing of classroom resources,” King said.

“Access to these types of resources has made a vast improvement to the classroom environment as staff can now focus on the key business of teaching.”

However, King said a “real issue” she has noticed in the years that she has worked with primary schools is the number of teachers who spend their time and money hunting for consumables so that they can conduct science experiments.

“It would be worth a study into how the resourcing of science in primary schools is impacting the engagement in STEM at this critical time in a students’ education,” she said.