Poor pay leaves support staff sweeping the roads

Many school support staff have to take on a second job to make ends meet, suggests a survey for the trade union Unison.

Its survey of more than 15,000 school support staff discovered that 16 per cent have a second job to boost their income – including bar and restaurant work, delivering newspapers and sweeping roads.

About 90 per cent of staff also said they were concerned about the low pay, with 17 per cent admitting that they qualified for in-work benefits.

One support worker said: “Long term, I will be unable to remain in my job due to the pay being so little and the lack of possibilities for career progression. The pro-rata pay that support staff receive is insulting.”

The survey also revealed that 58 per cent of support staff were on term-time only contracts.

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 . . . They make a significant contribution to the ability of students to learn, and for teachers to teach, but they are a forgotten workforce.”

Critics of the government point to the 2010 scrapping of the School Support Staff Negotiating Body (SSSNB), the pay body for school support staff.

The Department for Education (DfE) responded to the criticisms by holding a consultation, which ended last month, calling for views on how best to develop new standards for teaching assistants.

The DfE said it was “currently analysing the responses” to the consultation and will announce the results in due course.

Shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt, has said that if Labour takes power after the next general election, he would revitalise the SSSNB with the aim of securing a fair pay deal for support staff.

Speaking at Labour party conference in Manchester earlier this year, he said: “The next Labour Government will re-establish that negotiating body for the lowest paid; to deliver dignity at work for those who ensure our young people succeed.”

“The cleaners, janitors, dinner ladies, teaching assistants – the hidden army of our schools. As our friends in Unison, UNITE, and the GMB have long campaigned, it is time their contribution was recognised,” Mr Hunt said.

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