Support staff put in unpaid overtime to aid busy teachers, survey finds

Three quarters of support staff in state schools are “picking up the slack” for busy teachers by working over their contracted hours, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) has claimed.

ATL unveiled the results of a survey of 1,668 support staff from UK state-funded schools this morning (February 2), with 75 per cent of respondents reporting that they had to work extra hours because their “workload demands it” and 70 per cent saying they did not get paid for the overtime.

A further 46 per cent said they worked one to three hours per week over what was agreed in their contract, with 21 per cent putting in an extra four to six hours-a-week.

Only 11 per cent of respondents held a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) or qualified teacher status (QTS), yet 72 per cent of these unqualified teachers reported that they were still expected to teach whole classes on a support staff pay rate.

Dr Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary, said: “It is totally unfair to expect support staff to teach classes without the appropriate training or remuneration — it sells both them and their pupils short.

“Clearly support staff are feeling the knock-on effects of teachers’ excessive workloads. The government must recognise they should not be the ones picking up the slack.”

She added: “It is vital they [support staff] are not overlooked in discussions surrounding the curbing of excessive working hours among education staff.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said: “The ATL survey shows the pressure that everyone working in education now feels.

“Support workers, like teachers, are working incredibly hard to make sure the children in their care have the best experience at school possible.

“NAHT hopes that when the government finally publishes the results of its workload challenge survey, that they acknowledge the additional burdens placed on support staff and highlight a plan to alleviate this.

“We would also like to see that the government finally commit to guaranteeing education funding in the next parliament. Only by properly funding education can we avoid the excessive and often stressful demands placed on all the dedicated staff who work in schools.”

The Department for Education (DfE) asked teachers, through the workload challenge, to complete an online survey by the end of November last year explaining what unnecessary tasks took them away from teaching and suggest ideas for how the situation could be improved.

A DfE spokesperson said: “We want to make sure all staff in our schools — including support staff — are able to focus on preparing children for life in modern Britain and are not over-burdened with unnecessary tasks.

“That is why we launched the workload challenge. We will be publishing a programme of action shortly and will ensure that all unions, including those representing support staff, are engaged with this process.”

Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) president Peter Kent agreed that there was a “workload issue” in schools, for everyone from headteachers to teachers and support staff.

He said: “We do need to look at ways to reduce tasks done for unnecessary compliance reasons that don’t contribute to teaching and learning.

“The government is already working on this and ASCL has published a ten point plan [that includes calls for more funding for schools] for reducing teacher workload. If implemented, this should have a positive impact on support staff.”

Visit to read ASCL’s 10 point plan.


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