Some time ago, I came across a discussion somewhere on the internet where teachers were talking about items they had purchased for their classrooms from personal funds. I wondered how prevalent this was so I put a quick question out on the Seomra Ranga Facebook Page asking teachers what they spend personal money on for the classroom. I was amazed at the array of items that were mentioned – there was the usual books, pencils, crayons etc. but also getting a mention was items like tissues, wipes, cleaning cloths, spare underwear and socks for those little emergencies.
So in early January, I put together a survey asking teachers to specify what they spent their personal money on for the classroom and how much they had spent. I also asked them why they had spent personal money on these items. The survey was left open on the website for about four weeks.
There are a couple of caveats to the results. Firstly, this was a self-reporting survey and the results of such surveys cannot be said to be applicable to the teaching population as a whole. This is just a snapshot in time. We were also relying on respondents to be as honest in their reporting as they could as we had no way of checking if they had spent this money. Nevertheless, the results of the survey make for interesting reading. Perhaps more interesting are the reasons teachers gave for spending their own money on classroom items and some of the additional comments that were made.
There were 106 responses to the survey. 21% of the respondents were from Dublin, with 9% responding from Kildare and Galway. Monaghan, Offaly and Westmeath were the only counties to have no respondents to the survey. The final sum spent by teachers throughout the country during this period was €6,611. This included small amounts of money from about €5 to much larger amounts of money for items like an iPad. The following graphic shows the most common categories of items on which money was spent – (categories are explained below) the larger the text, the more frequently it was mentioned by teachers. Some of the individual items that teachers mentioned that they had bought were: bird food; scrapbooks; cooking ingredients; laminating sheets; a five-way headphone splitter (because the Inspector was encouraging a “listening area” in the infants room); baby wipes; cleaning materials; microphone; iPad apps and many more.
- Text Books (copies of books pupils use or other alternative textbooks)
- Teacher Resource Books/Library Books (books that help teach a theme/topic or books for professional development)
- Visual Arts Materials (paper, card, paint, markers, glue etc)
- Classroom Display Items (flashcards, posters, backing paper for display boards, borders, pictures etc)
- Stationery (pens, pencils, crayons, whiteboard markers, laminating, photocopying, printer ink etc.)
- Sundry Items (wipes, tissues, cleaning cloths, soap etc.)
- Prizes (sweets, fancy goods etc. used for pupil motivation/incentive)
- Technology (cables, memory stick, apps etc.)
Why Did You Spend This Money?
Asked as to why teachers spent this money, this was a selection of the responses:
* Because I wanted to do a certain theme over a number of weeks and felt these books really fit what I wanted, as opposed to the regular textbooks.
* There was no money to refund me as I had already used our allowance on resources for a child with SEN.
* I find prizes essential to reinforce positive behaviour and helps greatly with classroom management.
* I teach infants and so baby wipes are a must when painting and for spills .
* This is my first year in infants so I bought appropriate posters and pictures for classroomm displays.
* I needed ink to print my plans and resources.
* I have started a new job and the classroom is bare. I need to brighten it up and create a nice learning environment.
* The school has no money and the parents in our school are unable to provide voluntary contributions. Kids do not come to school with pencils or if they do, they lose them and do not replace them. They cannot work without pencils.
* I was away and saw the item. I thought it would be nice for the class displays.
* The resource bought is of benefit to the children in the learning support classroom.
* Needed extra display facility as displays would not stay up on the wall of the prefab due to condensation.
* The children needed it.
* Because the parents couldn’t afford to buy them.
* BOM/Classroom money didn’t cover it. Felt like it was expected of me.
* If I didn’t a child with dyslexia would have to go without
* Otherwise I would not have enough resources to keep my children interested/busy/develop their skills, or reward their behaviour.
* We have been told there is no money but I cannot teach in an infant classroom where there are no tissues, wipes or cloths to clean tables and little noses! I felt I had no choice.
Additional Comments from Respondents
Other pertinent comments mentioned by teachers in the survey include:
* I have already talked to my Principal saying that I will not be able to support the school financially any longer this way. She said to me that teachers have always had to spend their own money. I am a new entrant NQT, my net pay is €405 or so a week. This situation is not sustainable and I am fed up.
* Paints, hessian fabric and clay are very expensive but are required in order to teach the curriculum. Art contribution by parents is not even near the full amount required to teach Art from Sept to June.
* The school budget is limited and the new principal is reluctant to allocate extra money to art supplies over and above what was purchased in September so stocks of glue and card were needed for projects so I bought them myself.
* Ruairí Quinn really doesn’t understand the absence of funding & resources to meet teaching and learning standards in teaching of science and maths.
* Because the school doesn’t have the funds to cover it [IPPN Subscriptions and Conference of €500], even though they are legitimate expenses. I’ve covered this for the past 2 years. It’s my own choice to do so.
* We are given €200 at the start of the year to cover all costs and then expected to have a perfectly displayed room for the year. It’s a little unrealistic!
* As I am a resource teacher, I have to buy additional resources on a regular basis as children have varying needs and with no resource grant from the government, the €50 I get from the principal to cover sundries is well spent by December!
* All my spare socks and underwear for children who have accidents or for children who just don’t have these items have been given out so I bought a cheap pack of 10 sports socks in Guineys for children coming in in this cold with no socks. The 10 pairs went this morning so I’ll have to go out and get a few more this evening!
While totally anecdotal in nature, the results of this survey reveal that teachers seem to be spending lots of their own money on many items for their classrooms – some of these items may well have been considered to be essentials. Many teachers admit that they often throw items into their trolley during the weekly shopping trip. Some teachers admit that it is their own choice to purchase these items, while others feel duty-bound to buy them. Lots of teachers say that the principal has told them that the school has no money – so therefore a choice has to be made by the teacher, purchase the item to enhance the lesson/for the good management of the classroom or do without.
It was also discomforting to hear teachers say that their pupils needed the items (eg. stationery) and that if they didn’t purchase them, the pupils would not be able to complete their tasks. It was even more discomforting to read a comment, from what is obviously a principal teacher, that he/she paid the annual subscription fee and conference fee to the IPPN because he/she knew that the BOM could not afford it.
Let me know your views on the results of the survey by leaving a comment below. If you have not commented on the site before, your comment will be held in moderation until it is approved, just to make sure it is not spam. Once a comment from you has been approved, you can then comment as often as you wish.
Interesting reading! This school year I have spent personal money on – stationary (pencils, rubbers, spare copies etc for the students; post-its, pens, whiteboard markers, notebooks etc for myself), books (textbooks and library books), food items (for parties, cookery lessons), art supplies (e.g. paint, card, coloured paper), IT accessories (mini-camera tripods, head-phone splitters, blank CDs and DVDs, printer cartrides), games (board games), display items (backing paper, magnetic tape), storage (plastic boxes).
That’s just off the top of my head. I’m sure there is more! Generally small amounts of money at a time but when I see it listed I’m mentally totting it all up!!
Has this been submitted to the DES and usual anti-teacher media brigade?
Hi Bríd, hopefully they’ll pick it up.
Interesting post, as usual, Damien. With further cuts to schools’ budgets, there is huge pressure on Boards, principals and teachers to come up with money for the smaller things as well as the bigger items. I can’t see the current situation of teachers funding their own classroom stopping any time soon.
It most unfortunate that teachers are paying for items required in class out of their own pockets. However, this in my opinion is also an indicator of a great malaise in National Schools that is the poor engagement of (& communication with) Parents in the education of their children. In particular I find the stance of our local National School quite offensive because they are deliberately excluding Parental Involvement. If they took the opposite stance and engaged with Parents we would have a greater insights into the difficulties teachers have and hopeful provide them with the extra supports they justifiable need to resolve such a situation. I am not part of the anti-teacher brigade just part of the pro-parental involvement brigade as the teachers in the local National School seem to be very committed to teaching and “in general” compassionate and understanding with the students. I perceive the major problem lays with the School Management system, which hopefully will be resolved with the changes in school patronages.