BY JAMES TWOMEY
The president of a teachers’ union has spoken of helping teachers and school support staff at a food bank which she volunteers at.
Kim Knappet – joint-president of the National Education Union – lives in Lewisham and said that during her time there in a charitable role she has experienced helping teachers in need of food and clothes for themselves and their children.
Ms Knappett volunteers at the Trussell Trust food bank in Forest Hill and said a handful of teachers and at least 10 teaching assistants have been there.
She said: “I think it’s a disgrace that people with such important jobs are resorting to using food banks. We should be paying teachers and teaching assistants a proper living wage.
“Teachers are receiving low staffing pay and suffering from high housing costs, which is leaving lots of them on the breadline.
They cannot cope with the housing costs.
“Teaching assistants are even worse. They get low hours and now they can only get term-time contracts which might look good on the surface but are leaving them with much less money and security.”
Last year the School Teachers’ Review Body, which makes suggestions to the government on teachers’ salaries, told the government that teachers needed a 3.5 per cent pay rise across the board, but only the main pay range and unqualified teachers’ pay increased by that much.
In January the education secretary, Damien Hinds, said the government would be capping teachers pay rises to two per cent.
An NEU survey of 34,000 teachers showed that 70 percent are already considering leaving the profession due to poor levels of pay.
Ms Knappett said: “This needs to be fixed. Academisation is wasting money that could be spent on teachers.
The money should be spent on young people and teachers instead of going in the chief executive’s pay packet.”
In Lewisham, between April and September last year 3,375 three-day emergency food supplies were given to adults and children.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “Whilst we know pay is an important issue for teachers, there are also other factors which can affect recruitment and retention, which is why this year we unveiled the first ever integrated recruitment and retention strategy in England.
The strategy provides teachers with more early careers support and opportunities for flexible and part-time working, and builds on the work we have done to support school leaders to strip away unnecessary workload.”
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