Public schools depend on fundraising and teacher contributions

A new AEU survey has exposed the reliance of schools on fundraising for necessities, as well as teachers working overtime and paying for school supplies out of their own pockets.

These funds are being used for literacy and numeracy programs, classroom supplies, library books, IT equipment and basic maintenance – all necessities that should be in schools as a matter of course.

The AEU’s State of Our Schools survey for 2017 found that that 95% of teachers spent their own money on school supplies, with more than half spending $500 of their own money each year on classroom basics, and 10% spending over $2000.

Teachers were most likely to spend their own money on stationery (78%), classroom supplies (75%) and library resources (43%).

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said reliance on fundraising and teacher contributions for essentials showed public schools were not getting the support they needed

“Teachers and principals should be spending all their time on the education of their students, not working out how many barbeques they need to organise and run to pay for a literacy and numeracy program,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Teachers are aware of the shortages of resources in their schools, and it is a major concern they feel that they need to pay for basic resources which should be available to all students as a matter of course.

When it came to fundraising the survey found 83% of public schools used fundraising to add to their budgets, and that 90% of principals who fundraise describe it as ‘important’ or ‘very important’

The survey showed that fundraising was being used for school essentials: with 50% of schools using it for computer hardware or software, 45% for sports equipment, 43% for library resources or textbooks and 26% of schools for basic maintenance on school infrastructure.

Not only is it unacceptable that schools are forced to fundraise for these basics, a reliance on fundraising will worsen inequities between schools because schools in wealthy areas have a greater capacity to fundraise.

Ms Haythorpe said needs-based Gonski funding was the best way to close resources gaps between schools.

“Gonski funding is beginning to make a difference, and we are seeing schools doing fantastic things with the extra resources they have received so far, but about two-thirds of the extra funding schools need is due to be delivered in 2018 and 2019,” Ms Haythorpe said.

Key findings of the survey, which was completed by 1428 principals and 7513 teachers, include:

  • 83% of schools engage in fundraising, and 90% of those say it is ‘important’ or ‘very important’ for their annual budgets.
  • 65% of teachers said their school was under-resourced, while only 5% said it was well-resourced.
  • 95% of teachers spend their own money on school supplies, with 50% spending more than $500 each year and 10% spending over $2000.
  • More than half of full-time teachers work over 50 hours per week on school-related activities, while 29% work over 55 hours per week.
  • 75 per cent of teachers believe their workload is increasing.

“The increasing hours teachers are working remains a concern – because this a key reason ex-teachers give for leaving the profession,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“However it is clear that full Gonski funding will address some of the concerns of teachers.”

When asked what could help lift results for students teachers said: smaller classes (48%), additional support for students with disability (44%) and extra in class assistance (33%) as the main things that would improve results for their students.

These are all things that Gonski funding is already delivering and that we will see more of if Malcolm Turnbull funds the full six years of Gonski.

We can’t leave our schools dependent on the goodwill or teachers and parents to stretch their budgets as they try and give every child the support they need.

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