by Tim Lezard 80% of school support staff work unpaid overtime in order to keep on top of their jobs, according to a UNISON survey. And a further 16% take second jobs to supplement their income, including work in bars and restaurants, delivering free n …

Tim Lezard UK, Education (EI), Unison,

teachers classroomby Tim Lezard

80% of school support staff work unpaid overtime in order to keep on top of their jobs, according to a UNISON survey.

And a further 16% take second jobs to supplement their income, including work in bars and restaurants, delivering free newspapers, sweeping roads and packing internet orders.

Almost 90% said they are concerned about low rates of pay. 17% admitted their pay is so low that they qualify for in-work benefits.

80% of respondents said they love their job, but less than half said they feel valued. 53% said they feel significant levels of stress in the job.

One support worker said: “The pay is terrible. Teachers are paid all year round but support staff are not. Yet we are also asked to do things at home, on the way to and from work and put in overtime in the holidays. Support staff are not valued in my opinion.

“If everyone worked just their hours nothing would be completed and pupils would suffer. Too much goodwill for very little pay. Schools are demanding environments with increasing pressure to work beyond just support.”

Another school support staff member surveyed said: “Pay will never equal a living wage unless  the part-time, term-time only nature of school contracts ends. Pension entitlement looks dire. Job security will always be an issue until school support staff are valued by society as a necessary and positive part of a school’s team. This could be improved by the government valuing us and filtering that message down.”

The poll of more than 15,000 school support staff from the across the UK has revealed a professional, committed, but demoralised workforce that harbours serious concerns for their ability to adequately support students, unless crucial issues such as workload, job security, overtime and pay are addressed.

The report coincides with a national celebration day for support staff, where students across the country will hold special assemblies, bake cakes, dress up as superheroes and design posters to show their appreciation for the unsung heroes in their schools.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “School support staff are the backbone of every school and play a vital role in educating our children. They are being given more responsibilities and managerial titles but their pay and conditions do not reflect this. Many are being paid just above the minimum wage, which is simply not acceptable for the amount of work and responsibility they have.

“Our members in schools help nine million pupils in 30,000 schools across the UK every day. They make a significant contribution to the ability of students to learn, and for teachers to teach, but they are a forgotten workforce, mostly ignored by this government.

“We desperately need school support workers to have their responsibilities recognised in their pay and conditions, with permanent contracts and decent conditions.”

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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