The Cost Of Living Crisis In Schools

Author: Antoinette Morris

Posted: 29 Sep 2022

Estimated time to read: 5 mins

Schools have been some of the worst hit by the cost of living crisis, but how can school leadership support staff wellbeing in this difficult time? 

The United Kingdom is currently experiencing a severe cost of living crisis.

In July, for the first time in 40 years, the country’s inflation rate rose above 10 percent.

This increase led to skyrocketing energy, food, and fuel costs. The crisis hasn’t yet reached its peak, either, with the Bank of England suggesting that inflation will reach 13 percent by the end of this year.

Nearly everyone is struggling with the changes to the cost of living index in the UK, including teachers and school staff. This blog discusses the effects of the cost of living crisis on schools and provides insight into how leadership teams can support their staff.

How does the cost of living crisis affect schools?

Schools are some of the worst hit by the current cost of living crisis.

Their already-strained budgets are being squeezed even tighter to accommodate rising energy and equipment costs, as well as salaries for teachers and support staff. School leaders are even re-evaluating staff pension schemes, considering potential changes in contribution rates in the coming years.

One headteacher revealed that his school could not afford textbooks because of its £100,000-plus energy bill. Some schools have also contemplated a shorter week or shorter teaching day to help offset growing costs. 

Prime Minister Liz Truss recently introduced a six-month support scheme for schools (and other non-domestic energy users). Many have criticised its lack of detail, however, as well as the absence of a guarantee that prices will not rise again before the end of the year.

Who within the school community is affected?

Nearly everyone in the school community is suffering at the hands of rising living costs. 

Pupils and their families, for example, are struggling with increased food and energy costs. Some even rely on school-run food banks to keep themselves fed. 

Teachers and other school staff are feeling extra pressure on their wallets as well, just like other professionals throughout the UK.

This strain is exacerbated, though, by the fact that many are dipping into their own accounts — and giving up personal time and food from their cupboards — to support pupils and their families.

The results of one survey revealed that 58 percent of teachers had given pupils food or clothing, and 15 percent had lent or given money to pupils.

In addition to this monetary stress brought on by the cost of living crisis, many teachers and school staff are struggling mentally.

The stress of wondering if they will be able to pay their energy bills, buy groceries, and support their students adds up quickly. As a result, feelings of depression and anxiety are increasing without showing any sign of slowing down.Abstract image to indicate rising financial costs during the UK cost of living crisis

How can leadership better support staff?

School leadership teams need to take action to support teachers and staff through this time of crisis.

Even if salary increases aren’t possible because of tight budgets, leaders can take other steps to support school staff during this challenging time. Here are a few suggestions: 

Encourage preventative health care

Increasing workloads, financial stress and stress about pupil wellbeing can severely impact the physical health of your staff, with chronic stress linked to conditions like heart disease, digestive distress, and insomnia.

While teachers and school staff might be putting their own wellbeing on the back burner to care for their pupils and their families, leadership must urge them to take time for themselves and prioritise preventative healthcare. Encourage them to undergo regular check-ups, even if they have to leave work for the appointment. 

Offer mental health education and support 

In addition to persuading staff to prioritise physical health, school leadership must also push them to take care of their mental health.

Mental health education matters a great deal for teachers and school staff. The more they know about common mental health conditions, their symptoms, and their treatment options, the easier it is for them to pick up on warning signs and get help.

If school leaders have the means to offer on-site mental health support (for staff and pupils), they should follow through and provide it. The more convenient mental health support is, the more likely people will take advantage of it.

Express appreciation

Teachers and school staff are bending over backwards right now to fulfil their job requirements and give pupils and their families extra support.

Leaders going out of their way to express appreciation for their staff can be a real morale boost.

Ask staff about their needs 

In addition to expressing gratitude, school leaders should also go directly to teachers and staff and ask what they need.

Even if leaders can’t meet all of the needs shared by teachers and staff, they might be able to fulfil some of them or find compromises that work for everyone.

Be open to suggestions

It’s not enough to ask for feedback. Leaders must also be receptive to the suggestions that they receive.

If teachers and staff don’t feel their needs or concerns matter, they might begin to feel resentful. 

You don’t need to be able to solve every problem that you’re faced with, but taking the time to do what you can is always a fantastic first step.

How can Wellbeing Tracker help manage staff wellbeing?


Satchel Pulse’s Wellbeing Tracker helps school leadership keep an eye on teacher wellbeing (as well as pupil and parent wellbeing) and catch worrying trends early. This information will allow leaders to make informed decisions about school wellbeing and ensure everyone gets the support they need.

Learn more about Wellbeing Tracker here