School support staff ‘feeling the brunt’ of funding cuts

School support staff are being forced to work unpaid overtime as a result of increasing workload and dwindling staffing levels, a new survey has found.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, warned that school support staff are “feeling the brunt” of school cuts, with redundancies forcing those left in the system to do more.

Research by the NEU found that 78 per cent of teaching assistants, school administrators and other support staff are working overtime every week, with 20 per cent claiming their school expects them to work extra hours and 5 per cent saying their school demands it of them. More than 60 per cent of respondents are not paid for their overtime.

Support staff are feeling the brunt of school cuts as schools struggle to make ends meet

The data, from a survey of more than 1,700 teaching assistants, cover supervisors, administrators and lab technicians, has been released today to coincide with the launch of the last ever Association of Teachers and Lecturers annual conference.

The ATL, now a section of the larger National Education Union following a merger with the National Union of Teachers last year, will meet in Liverpool until Wednesday, with workload and pay expected to be high up the agenda.

The research follows a tumultuous few years for support staff. According to government statistics, the number of support staff working in English secondary schools dropped from 175,500 in 2013 to 166,400 in 2016, a drop of over 5 per cent.

In comparison, the number of pupils in secondary schools fell by just 0.5 per cent over the same period, and pupil numbers at secondary level are expected to rise by 19 per cent by 2025 as a result of the early 2000s baby boom.

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Dr Mary Bousted

Of the support staff who told the NEU that they worked overtime, 73 per cent blamed workload. 32 per cent said they worked at least an extra two days every month on top of their contracted hours, while 13 per cent said they worked at least an extra seven hours every week, equal to a whole extra day. 33 per cent rarely or never take their full lunch break, despite not being paid for it.

“Support staff are feeling the brunt of school cuts as schools struggle to make ends meet,” warned Bousted.

“Many are being made redundant, and those remaining are being expected to do more for the same pay. Not only is this blatantly unfair, it is also putting support staff under considerable pressure and making many ill. If the government fails to find any more money for schools, children will start suffering as more staff go off sick with stress.”

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