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Clever ways to source school supplies without blowing your budget

In a recent NASUWT survey, one in five teachers said that they use their own money to pay for classroom supplies at least once a week. Over half of teachers (53%) responding to the survey said they had to find their own resources because of funding pressures on their school. 64% of teachers said they purchase paper or stationery for their classroom, 64% arts and crafts materials and 43% textbooks or reading books.

While it may feel like the right – and only – thing to do to when resources are limited, there are some ways you and your school can source supplies without it putting your own finances at risk:

1. Trawl online and social marketplaces

Local Freecycle, Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace are great places to find bargains and free items in your local community. The Freecycle Network is a grassroots, non-profit movement all about reuse and keeping useful stuff out of landfills. Once you sign up, you can join a local group and post ‘wanted’ ads for everything from stationery and books, to games and clothes. On Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace you can search for specific items in your local area or just browse ‘freebies’ to see what’s available. You’d be surprised what you can find for free or very cheap – so they are always worth checking before buying something new.

2. Get on the radar of local companies

While schools may be under-resourced, many local companies often have leftover stationery that they may be willing to donate. Think about what resources you need and target companies accordingly – if it’s paper, go to printing companies; pens or IT equipment, try a large office block. Look on company websites for those who have a history of helping social or community projects – many larger businesses will have a sustainability or community agenda that you could leverage. You could get your pupils to write a class letter to make it more personal and even tie it in with an educational visit if you can to get pupils involved in the local community.

3. Make friends with local charities and reuse networks

Charity shops are fantastic places to pick up very cheap classroom resources, particularly reading books and textbooks if you’re lucky. If you go in person, charity shop volunteers are usually happy to put aside any specific books or items you need and let you know when they come in. There are also many different waste reduction or reuse centres across the UK that offer anything from IT equipment to paint. Some even also offer education days and resources – such as Waste Savers in Newport, South Wales – which can bring lessons about recycling and sustainability to life. Use the Reuse Network website to find charities and reuse networks in your local area.

4. Use everything your library offers

Today there are many things your local library offers that can save money – sheet music for choirs or orchestras, plays for drama, craft books for art lessons, scholarly journals, test preparation or revision resources – nearly everything is free or cheap to borrow or photocopy. Textbooks are often the most expensive items to source or replace. While some textbooks are necessary for students to have in full, if you know you just need a few pages, or know which pages are out of date, you should be able to find the most up-to-date versions in your local or central library and photocopy them (as long as it’s less than 5% of the original text). Check your local library for what resources they offer and make friends with the librarians, who will give you tips when new items have been stocked.

5. Reach parents through social media

Many parents will be used to pleas from the school for donations and money. But rather than sending messages home with pupils, many teachers are now looking into Facebook or WhatsApp Groups, where you can regularly post requests and updates. Asking for specific items rather than money can often help and giving updates on how the items have been used can often be a great way to say thank you and encourage further giving. You can also post tips, such as looking out for items in charity shops or encouraging those who work in offices to appeal to company heads – meaning you widen your resourcing team.

As a teacher, you already have a lot on your plate, and buying insurance may not be at the top of your list. UIA Mutual and the NASUWT are working together to make sure teachers and their families are offered competitive premiums on their Home, Car, Travel and Pet Insurance – so that’s one less thing to worry about.

Find out more about UIA Mutual insurance for NASUWT members.