School staff quit for higher-paying supermarket jobs as cost-of-living crises bite

Principals struggle to hire and then retain staff, with some running out of applicants for roles as candidates find out they can earn more storage shelves

The photo shows a student raising her hand to ask a question in the classroom
On 3 April 2022, 63 secondary schools in England were rated as insufficient

School workers are quitting their jobs in favor of higher-paying jobs in supermarkets, a study has found.

Principals struggle to hire and then retain staff, with some running out of applicants for roles as candidates find out they can earn more storage shelves.

Education experts say the combination of low wages and higher cost of living is pushing people out of school.

Pay scales for auxiliary staff outside of London start at £18,333 a year, although temporary staff may be paid less than this, an inquiry by the Times educational supplement has revealed.

The Department of Education claims schools have the freedom to set their own salary terms for support staff if they wish, but school leaders say the budgets simply mean it can’t.

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Paul Gosling, Headmaster of Exeter Road Primary School in Devon and the new President of the NAHT Headmasters’ Union, revealed his school had not received applications for some posts despite having had 10 or more in the past.

He said: “Candidates will sit down and calculate their salary and see ‘here I can get 38 weeks while at Tesco I can get 52 weeks with leave entitlement’. We are in a competitive market and cannot compete with it.

“I don’t know where this ends. The danger is that we have children who need one-on-one attention – they have a legal right to a classroom tutor, for example – and if we don’t get them.” Interviewing people, we can do ours responsibility.”

His views were echoed by numerous school principals across the county who were losing staff to higher-paying retail jobs.

A manager at a West Yorkshire school told TES anonymously: ‘It has become ridiculous since the cost of living crisis hit. I’m living paycheck to paycheck, we have no savings at all. I’m a wage away from the streets. If I get a surprise bill, I have it.”

Mike Short, head of education at Unison – which represents more than 250,000 members in support staff roles across the UK – said the situation was “shameful”.

Unison’s Mike Short



He said that people who support children’s education “struggle to put food on the table and pay the bills.”

The Mirror previously reported that even teachers will have to resort to food banks when the cost-of-living crisis hits.

Last month, a survey found that more than half of teachers are cutting back on food spending to make ends meet.

Union leaders said even teachers are seriously considering whether they can afford to remain in office during the cost-of-living crisis after years of wage freezes and wage increases below inflation.

A survey for the NASUWT union found that 54% of teachers are cutting back on their grocery stores, while 40% are cutting spending on essential household goods.

One in ten (11%) has taken on a second job to make ends meet.

The survey of more than 10,000 teachers found that seven in 10 (70%) have considered quitting their job in the past 12 months – and nearly half (49%) cited pay as the reason.

Patrick Roach, Secretary General of NASUWT, said: “Teachers across the UK and at every stage of their careers are seriously questioning whether they can afford to continue another year in the teaching profession without a pay rise to match the skyrocketing cost of living.

The government has consistently failed to heed teachers’ warnings that the toll of 12 years of wage cuts and consecutive pay freezes can no longer be accepted.

“Now we live with the grim reality that teachers have no choice but to find second jobs, cut back on essential supplies like groceries and even rely on food banks for support.

“With seven out of ten teachers considering quitting the profession altogether, there is an urgent need for the government to secure the future of education by embarking on a wage recovery program that recognizes and values ​​the work of teachers and school leaders.”

Primary school children sit in a classroom taught by a teacher in north east England. Students answer questions with arms raised.

The Department of Education spokesman said: “We now have over 460,000 inspirational teachers in our classrooms across the country, up 20,000 from 2010.

“Our latest teacher pay proposals set out how we will provide a starting salary of £30,000 for teachers by 2023/24, and the highest pay for experienced teachers since 2006 in 2022/23.

“We understand that the rising cost of living is worrying people across the country. We will continue to reward teachers for their hard work – and attract the brightest and best to the profession – with a salary system that is fair and affordable for the taxpayer.”

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