Survey findings on the cost of living crisis

During 2022 RPI inflation rose to 19.9%, a 40-year high, which saw workers across Scotland struggling to make ends meet.

Whilst this inflation was not attributed to wage rises, as real wages within the UK have been steadily falling for more than a decade, workers were none-the-less told to shoulder this burden as they have before. More recently Huw Pill, the Chief Economist at the Bank of England has said, “Somehow in the UK, someone needs to accept that they’re worse off and stop trying to maintain their real spending power by bidding up prices, whether through higher wages or passing energy costs on to customers. What we’re facing now is that reluctance to accept that, yes, we’re all worse off and we all have to take our share.”

This is not the view of the EIS. We believe strongly that poverty is a political choice, and that no worker should accept less money for more work.

As members will be aware the EIS surveyed its school-based members in December 2022 into the beginning of January 2023. This data collection has become a routine and important part of our member engagement, and our evidence gathering for Scottish Government, COSLA and other education stakeholders.

We have now published the survey report in full, with many of the findings painting a very troubling picture of what is happening to the teaching profession in Scotland. High levels of prolonged stress, a crippling workload and insufficient resourcing for Additional Support for Learning are unfortunately the headline figures from the 2023 survey, and from many of the member surveys carried out following the introduction of austerity policies.

However, there was one area of the survey that wasn’t so familiar – the section on the cost of living crisis. This data highlights how important the Pay Attention campaign was, and the urgency that was needed to address the real terms decline in teacher pay.

Over 16,000 school-based members completed the survey. This represents a third of our school-based membership, providing a very reliable data set. When asked, 50% of respondents said they were starting to struggle or were worried about paying for their rent or mortgage, and a further 13% said that they were already struggling to afford the roof over their heads. 65% said they were starting to struggle or were worried about their weekly food shop, and almost a quarter of respondents said they were already struggling to afford running a car.

70% said there has been some impact, or a significant impact on their ability to pay for wellbeing activities. This is especially concerning when considered alongside the poor health and wellbeing reported by EIS members in this recent, and previous surveys. Whilst tackling workload and increasing ASL resourcing is the key priority to improve member wellbeing at work, it is also vital that members are able to take part in leisure activities to help them recover during their precious down-time.

The cost of living crisis also further entrenched inequalities as disabled members (who were 4% of respondents) were more likely than all other groups to notice a significant impact across all areas of living costs (apart from childcare). There wasn’t a considerable difference for members who identified as a woman, and this may be attributed to the fact that the vast majority of total responses, and a significant proportion of all teachers are women.

Members were then asked if they were having to cut back on or go without a range of social activities and seasonal spending. As the survey was open from the end of December, and this is usually a time of increased spending demands, the EIS was eager to see if the cost of living crisis affected their Christmas holidays as well as their ability to spend on leisure activities.

A fifth of all respondents said that they are having to go without spending on social activities, and 29% said that they are having to go without spending on holidays. Additionally, 76% said they had to cut back on Christmas presents for friends and family this year.

When asked, only 1% of respondents said that they have had to use a foodbank in the past six months. This is a small percentage but it amounts to 160 of the teachers who responded to the survey- a worrying picture. The number is slightly higher for members who identified themselves as disabled, as 4% said they had used a foodbank in the last 6 months.

The EIS has also been aware of increasing numbers of teachers using their own money for classroom supplies since austerity policies were introduced after the last financial crash.

Of those who said they had used a foodbank in the past 6 months the majority, 79%, said they had done so for the first time. This shows that whilst the number of EIS members who have used the services of a foodbank are small, they were forced into using this support for the first time as a result of the cost of living crisis.

The EIS has also been aware of increasing numbers of teachers using their own money for classroom supplies since austerity policies were introduced after the last financial crash. When asked if they spent any of their own money to buy food, clothing, school equipment, or pay for pupils that they teach so they don’t go without, the vast majority, 69%, said yes. Only 31% said they did not use their own money to support pupils.

With the number of children living in poverty continuing to rise it is once again falling on schools, with dwindling resources to plug the gaps in many young people’s lives. However, it is simply not sustainable for teachers and those working in schools to continue to subsidise the Scottish education system. Whether it is physically subsidising the resources for the classroom or supplies for individual pupils, or indeed by working so many additional hours that the system does not support itself without them, it is simply unsustainable.

When asked if the cost of living crisis has affected their spending on classroom resources, 51% said they spend less because they can no longer afford it, and 15% said they spend more because of greater need.

All EIS members should be proud of our collective campaigning efforts to mitigate the worst impacts of inflation and the ideology that postulates that workers should simply absorb the economic and financial shocks caused by unbridled corporate greed, propped up by complicit political decision-making that does not put citizens first.

We must continue our solidarity to members who are still undertaking industrial action on pensions, pay and working conditions. We do not, and will not, accept these attacks on workers’ rights. We must continue to stay strong in the fight for proper investment in public services, and fair pay and conditions for ourselves as teachers and lecturers, and for our fellow public sector workers. We must build on the successes of the Pay Attention campaign to push for a quality education system, rooted in social justice and equity, as the cornerstone of our whole society.

Our collective attention needs to once again turn to this.

Survey Results

 No impactSome impact – I’m starting to struggle or am worried about paying for this in the coming monthsSignificant impact – I’m struggling to afford to pay for thisNot Applicable
All Respondents26.1%50.4%12.9%10.5%
Caring Responsibility22.7%53.7%16.1%7.6%
Weekly Food shop    
All Respondents16.7%65.1%16.1%2.1%
Caring Responsibility12.1%65.4%21.1%1.3%
Clothes for self and/or children    
All Respondents25.0%49.2%19.0%6.8%
Caring Responsibility17.1%55.8%24.3%2.8%
Childcare – including afterschool clubs & wraparound care    
All Respondents19.6%14.6%7.9%58.0%
Caring Responsibility22.4%25.2%14.8%37.7%
Running a car – including petrol, tax & insurance & maintenance    
All Respondents13.4%57.7%23.4%5.5%
Caring Responsibility10.4%57.5%28.4%3.7%
Wellbeing activities – therapy, gym, wellbeing classes etc    
All Respondents14.5%35.7%34.1%15.8%
Caring Responsibility10.5%32.4%41.7%15.3%