Christina McAnea stresses how vital school support staff are

The annual UNISON school support staff seminar took place recently in Cardiff, providing the chance for activists in schools to develop their skills and knowledge in the sector, through a combination of speaker presentations and workshops.

General secretary Christina McAnea told those attending: “You are a really important group within our union. About one in five of our members are school support staff – that’s how big a group you are in our union.

“And that’s really important, because it means we have a real voice within the schools in this country.

“We need to build up our representation in schools, so that we have a strong voice in schools to stop the exploitation that we see of support staff, and make sure you get the recognition and the reward you deserve for the really important jobs that you do.”

Catherine McKinnell MP address the school support staff seminar in Cardiff

Catherine McKinnell MP (pictured above), the shadow minister for schools told the seminar: “School staff have been badly let down. We’ve got a staffing crisis in our schools, we’ve got turnover higher than before the pandemic. Staff feel overworked, overstretched and undervalued”.

She continued: “We need to attract the best and hold onto the best staff and part of this would involve reinstating the School Support Staff Negotiating Body, which would make sure support staff have a voice and seat at the table.

“Too many support staff are leaving our schools, leaving jobs they love to find pay and conditions that are better elsewhere.

Of a future Labour government, she added: “We will listen and work with schools to deliver that change that we know our schools and our children need to see”.

The seminar also heard from Karl Hopwood, an independent e-safety expert, who sits on the advisory board for the UK Safer Internet Centre and the education advisory board for The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (CEOP).

He said: “All staff, regardless of their role in their school, need to have some sort of online safety induction, which needs to be updated year-on-year.

“We have to address and talk about online safety in schools.

“Every school should have a clear policy on the use of mobile and smart technology in schools for the professionals and children.”

UNISON members attending the school support staff seminar in Cardiff marking the tenth year of Stars in Our Schools

Those attending the seminar co-ordinated group photos to celebrate 2024 being the tenth year of Stars in Our Schools (above).

Topics that were discussed in the workshops included the impact of teaching assistants covering classes, tackling racism in schools, UNISON’s Year of LGBT+ Workers, online safety and more.

The day also offered the opportunity to network with fellow reps and discuss issues that matter to school support staff across the UK.

The article Christina McAnea stresses how vital school support staff are first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Christina McAnea stresses how vital school support staff are

The annual UNISON school support staff seminar took place recently in Cardiff, providing the chance for activists in schools to develop their skills and knowledge in the sector, through a combination of speaker presentations and workshops.

General secretary Christina McAnea told those attending: “You are a really important group within our union. About one in five of our members are school support staff – that’s how big a group you are in our union.

“And that’s really important, because it means we have a real voice within the schools in this country.

“We need to build up our representation in schools, so that we have a strong voice in schools to stop the exploitation that we see of support staff, and make sure you get the recognition and the reward you deserve for the really important jobs that you do.”

Catherine McKinnell MP address the school support staff seminar in Cardiff

Catherine McKinnell MP (pictured above), the shadow minister for schools told the seminar: “School staff have been badly let down. We’ve got a staffing crisis in our schools, we’ve got turnover higher than before the pandemic. Staff feel overworked, overstretched and undervalued”.

She continued: “We need to attract the best and hold onto the best staff and part of this would involve reinstating the School Support Staff Negotiating Body, which would make sure support staff have a voice and seat at the table.

“Too many support staff are leaving our schools, leaving jobs they love to find pay and conditions that are better elsewhere.

Of a future Labour government, she added: “We will listen and work with schools to deliver that change that we know our schools and our children need to see”.

The seminar also heard from Karl Hopwood, an independent e-safety expert, who sits on the advisory board for the UK Safer Internet Centre and the education advisory board for The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (CEOP).

He said: “All staff, regardless of their role in their school, need to have some sort of online safety induction, which needs to be updated year-on-year.

“We have to address and talk about online safety in schools.

“Every school should have a clear policy on the use of mobile and smart technology in schools for the professionals and children.”

UNISON members attending the school support staff seminar in Cardiff marking the tenth year of Stars in Our Schools

Those attending the seminar co-ordinated group photos to celebrate 2024 being the tenth year of Stars in Our Schools (above).

Topics that were discussed in the workshops included the impact of teaching assistants covering classes, tackling racism in schools, UNISON’s Year of LGBT+ Workers, online safety and more.

The day also offered the opportunity to network with fellow reps and discuss issues that matter to school support staff across the UK.

The article Christina McAnea stresses how vital school support staff are first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Education workers across Northern Ireland take action for pay justice

As UNISON prepares to celebrate the incredible Stars in Our Schools this Friday, more than 6,000 UNISON schools support staff members in Northern Ireland took to picket lines for a day’s strike action for fair pay.

From Belfast to Omagh, Downpatrick to Ballycastle, members demanded long overdue reform to the education authority’s pay and grading structure.

UNISON believes this must be changed to recognise and properly value our members’ huge contribution to the education of children and young people.

The action comes as education services in Northern Ireland experience significant cuts as a result of budgets set by the secretary of state for Northern Ireland, in the ongoing absence of an executive at Stormont.

UNISON delivered a strong message against the cuts and demanding fair pay at a demonstration outside the education authority’s  headquarters in Belfast last week.

UNISON Northern Ireland members at a strike demo in Belfast

UNISON Northern Ireland regional secretary Patricia McKeown told members at the demonstration: ‘‘You’re the people that look after our future generations. And our future generations need the best. You’re the best. That needs to be recognised in your pay, in your grading, and in the money that you’re owed.’’

UNISON reps and members at picket lines across Northern Ireland shared with local media how important fair pay is for them and their colleagues.

Anne Taggart, a cook at a primary school, highlighted how the cost of living crisis was impacting her ‘‘ten-fold” and it has got to the situation of ‘‘eat or heat”. Anne added that cooks and catering assistants are leaving in their droves as they ‘‘cannot afford to exist’’.

Samantha Bronze, a special needs classroom assistant, said: ‘‘Pay is nowhere near enough. The job description is busting at the seams and our goodwill is coming to an end. We’re not being paid fairly for the hours that we do and the work that we do and it needs to be recognised.’’

UNISON Northern Ireland members with Stars in Our Schools photo cards

Classroom assistant Maura Scampton said it was ‘‘very difficult’’ to go out on strike, but that ‘‘it’s impossible to live the way things are at the minute’’. Fellow classroom assistant Sinead Thompson said she was struggling to pay bills ‘‘every single month.’’

School principals in Northern Ireland also spoke in support of the action by UNISON members. Chris Donnelly, principal of a primary school in Belfast, said: ‘‘We cannot deliver on our mission of educating all children, in developing them academically, socially, emotionally and physically without classroom assistants and without our non-teaching staff.’’

UNISON Northern Ireland head of bargaining and representation Anne Speed added that the action was a message to the secretary of state that ‘‘punitive budgets are not good enough. Education workers in Northern Ireland are not prepared to sit and wait while you sort out all the political problems. Working people need pay justice now.’’

For more coverage of the strike action, check out UNISON Northern Ireland Facebook and X sites.

The article Education workers across Northern Ireland take action for pay justice first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Education workers across Northern Ireland take action for pay justice

As UNISON prepares to celebrate the incredible Stars in Our Schools this Friday, more than 6,000 UNISON schools support staff members in Northern Ireland took to picket lines for a day’s strike action for fair pay.

From Belfast to Omagh, Downpatrick to Ballycastle, members demanded long overdue reform to the education authority’s pay and grading structure.

UNISON believes this must be changed to recognise and properly value our members’ huge contribution to the education of children and young people.

The action comes as education services in Northern Ireland experience significant cuts as a result of budgets set by the secretary of state for Northern Ireland, in the ongoing absence of an executive at Stormont.

UNISON delivered a strong message against the cuts and demanding fair pay at a demonstration outside the education authority’s  headquarters in Belfast last week.

UNISON Northern Ireland members at a strike demo in Belfast

UNISON Northern Ireland regional secretary Patricia McKeown told members at the demonstration: ‘‘You’re the people that look after our future generations. And our future generations need the best. You’re the best. That needs to be recognised in your pay, in your grading, and in the money that you’re owed.’’

UNISON reps and members at picket lines across Northern Ireland shared with local media how important fair pay is for them and their colleagues.

Anne Taggart, a cook at a primary school, highlighted how the cost of living crisis was impacting her ‘‘ten-fold” and it has got to the situation of ‘‘eat or heat”. Anne added that cooks and catering assistants are leaving in their droves as they ‘‘cannot afford to exist’’.

Samantha Bronze, a special needs classroom assistant, said: ‘‘Pay is nowhere near enough. The job description is busting at the seams and our goodwill is coming to an end. We’re not being paid fairly for the hours that we do and the work that we do and it needs to be recognised.’’

UNISON Northern Ireland members with Stars in Our Schools photo cards

Classroom assistant Maura Scampton said it was ‘‘very difficult’’ to go out on strike, but that ‘‘it’s impossible to live the way things are at the minute’’. Fellow classroom assistant Sinead Thompson said she was struggling to pay bills ‘‘every single month.’’

School principals in Northern Ireland also spoke in support of the action by UNISON members. Chris Donnelly, principal of a primary school in Belfast, said: ‘‘We cannot deliver on our mission of educating all children, in developing them academically, socially, emotionally and physically without classroom assistants and without our non-teaching staff.’’

UNISON Northern Ireland head of bargaining and representation Anne Speed added that the action was a message to the secretary of state that ‘‘punitive budgets are not good enough. Education workers in Northern Ireland are not prepared to sit and wait while you sort out all the political problems. Working people need pay justice now.’’

For more coverage of the strike action, check out UNISON Northern Ireland Facebook and X sites.

The article Education workers across Northern Ireland take action for pay justice first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Labour commit to restore School Support Staff Negotiating Body

Earlier this week, the Labour Party pledged to restore the School Support Staff Negotiating Body (SSSNB) if they win the next general election.

Under a Labour government, the reconstituted SSSNB would become the negotiating body covering terms and conditions for teaching assistants, caretakers, office staff, technicians, catering staff, cleaners and all other support staff working in schools.

As the three recognised support staff trade unions UNISON, GMB and Unite would be responsible for negotiating on the SSSNB.

UNISON previously worked with the last Labour government to create and introduce the SSSNB before it was scrapped shortly after the Conservatives took power in 2010 by then education secretary, Michael Gove.

The union has been campaigning for the reintroduction of the SSSNB since it was scrapped and the announcement on Tuesday, from the shadow education secretary, Bridget Phillipson, marks a key step toward achieving that goal.

In her speech, Ms Phillipson said: “School leaders, especially in our best schools, rightly tell me about the vital role of their support staff and they will be crucial to delivering the high and rising standards Labour wants to see in all our schools.

“Teachers get their voice heard in the national conversation but too often support staff don’t. That’s why the last Labour government was right to create a negotiating body to look at their terms and conditions across our country, and that is why the next Labour government will do the same.

She announced the measure as part of Labour’s wider education policy saying they will “reset the relationship between schools, families and the government.”

UNISON believes the SSSNB is key to providing professional recognition for a group of staff which has been overlooked by the government for too long.

The body would work toward a number of goals for support staff including: giving them a proper voice in the national education conversation; achieving fair pay and helping move towards a synchronised package of terms and conditions across the country; and ensuring that they are properly rewarded for their work and granted opportunities for professional development.

Commenting on the announcement Mike Short, UNISON’s national secretary for education and local government, said: “School support staff play essential roles in supporting pupils in a wide variety of ways.

“However, too often, they are taken for granted and lack clear career progression. A dedicated pay and reward system would ensure they are fairly paid for what they do, as well as provide a career structure and opportunities for professional development.”

The article Labour commit to restore School Support Staff Negotiating Body first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Labour commit to restore School Support Staff Negotiating Body

Earlier this week, the Labour Party pledged to restore the School Support Staff Negotiating Body (SSSNB) if they win the next general election.

Under a Labour government, the reconstituted SSSNB would become the negotiating body covering terms and conditions for teaching assistants, caretakers, office staff, technicians, catering staff, cleaners and all other support staff working in schools.

As the three recognised support staff trade unions UNISON, GMB and Unite would be responsible for negotiating on the SSSNB.

UNISON previously worked with the last Labour government to create and introduce the SSSNB before it was scrapped shortly after the Conservatives took power in 2010 by then education secretary, Michael Gove.

The union has been campaigning for the reintroduction of the SSSNB since it was scrapped and the announcement on Tuesday, from the shadow education secretary, Bridget Phillipson, marks a key step toward achieving that goal.

In her speech, Ms Phillipson said: “School leaders, especially in our best schools, rightly tell me about the vital role of their support staff and they will be crucial to delivering the high and rising standards Labour wants to see in all our schools.

“Teachers get their voice heard in the national conversation but too often support staff don’t. That’s why the last Labour government was right to create a negotiating body to look at their terms and conditions across our country, and that is why the next Labour government will do the same.

She announced the measure as part of Labour’s wider education policy saying they will “reset the relationship between schools, families and the government.”

UNISON believes the SSSNB is key to providing professional recognition for a group of staff which has been overlooked by the government for too long.

The body would work toward a number of goals for support staff including: giving them a proper voice in the national education conversation; achieving fair pay and helping move towards a synchronised package of terms and conditions across the country; and ensuring that they are properly rewarded for their work and granted opportunities for professional development.

Commenting on the announcement Mike Short, UNISON’s national secretary for education and local government, said: “School support staff play essential roles in supporting pupils in a wide variety of ways.

“However, too often, they are taken for granted and lack clear career progression. A dedicated pay and reward system would ensure they are fairly paid for what they do, as well as provide a career structure and opportunities for professional development.”

The article Labour commit to restore School Support Staff Negotiating Body first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Labour commit to restore School Support Staff Negotiating Body in England

Earlier this week, the Labour Party pledged to restore the School Support Staff Negotiating Body (SSSNB) in England if they win the next general election.

Under a Labour government, the reconstituted SSSNB would become the negotiating body covering terms and conditions for teaching assistants, caretakers, office staff, technicians, catering staff, cleaners and all other support staff working in schools.

As the three recognised support staff trade unions UNISON, GMB and Unite would be responsible for negotiating on the SSSNB.

UNISON previously worked with the last Labour government to create and introduce the SSSNB before it was scrapped shortly after the Conservatives took power in 2010 by then education secretary, Michael Gove.

The union has been campaigning for the reintroduction of the SSSNB since it was scrapped and the announcement on Tuesday, from the shadow education secretary, Bridget Phillipson, marks a key step toward achieving that goal.

In her speech, Ms Phillipson said: “Teachers get their voice heard in the national conversation but too often support staff don’t. That’s why the last Labour government was right to create a negotiating body to look at their terms and conditions across our country, and that is why the next Labour government will do the same.

She announced the measure as part of Labour’s wider education policy saying they will “reset the relationship between schools, families and the government.”

Commenting afterwards, she added: “School support staff play a vital role in all our schools and they will be crucial to delivering the better future for all our children that Labour is determined to deliver.

“I look forward to working with Unison, GMB and Unite to deliver a better deal for everyone in our schools, in a Britain where background is no barrier to opportunity.”

UNISON believes the SSSNB is key to providing professional recognition for a group of staff which has been overlooked by the government for too long.

The body would work toward a number of goals for support staff including: giving them a proper voice in the national education conversation; achieving fair pay and helping move towards a synchronised package of terms and conditions across the country; and ensuring that they are properly rewarded for their work and granted opportunities for professional development.

Commenting on the announcement Mike Short, UNISON’s national secretary for education and local government, said: “School support staff play essential roles in supporting pupils in a wide variety of ways.

“However, too often, they are taken for granted and lack clear career progression. A dedicated pay and reward system would ensure they are fairly paid for what they do, as well as provide a career structure and opportunities for professional development.”

The article Labour commit to restore School Support Staff Negotiating Body in England first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Joint UNISON, GMB and Unite statement on the outcome of their complaint against the NEU

In late 2022, having failed to reach an agreement informally, UNISON, along with the GMB and Unite unions submitted a formal complaint to the TUC about the NEU’s organising activities and recruitment of school support staff.

The complaint alleged that the NEU had actively sought to recruit school support staff and had intervened in pay negotiations (known as the NJC) between the three recognised unions and the local government employers.

This undermined a previous agreement between all four unions around two fundamental TUC principles that require unions not to recruit nor organise in areas already covered by other recognised TUC unions.

Following a TUC disputes panel hearing the TUC issued its judgement the end of March 2023, which has now been presented to the TUC General Council. This upheld all the complaints against the NEU.

The judgement reaffirmed that the NJC unions (GMB, UNISON and Unite) have exclusive bargaining rights for school support staff. It also explicitly stated that, in future, the NEU should take no action that could be regarded as organising activity among these workers.

Please see the full joint statement from UNISON, GMB and Unite for more details.

The article Joint UNISON, GMB and Unite statement on the outcome of their complaint against the NEU first appeared on the UNISON National site.

England’s largest academy trust withholding back pay from staff, says UNISON

United Learning Trust (ULT) – England’s largest school academy chain – is withholding £1.5m in back pay from employees, says UNISON today (Friday).

The union has now launched a grievance on behalf of more than 3,000 support staff across the country against ULT, which runs 70 schools with more than 40,000 pupils.

UNISON is seeking up to £800 for each worker including teaching assistants, librarians and school technicians. This is the amount the union says ULT owes in back pay following the 2022/23 national pay award.

The Local Government Association deal agreed in November applies to the year from 1 April 2022 and most academy chains have backdated the new rate to take effect from this date.

However, UNISON says ULT has done this for just a fraction of its workforce – those who work at schools that have been taken over by the trust from councils.

All staff on the academy trust’s contracts have been paid the increase only from September* onwards.

The union says the education charity is creating a two-tier workforce by implementing different pay award dates.

UNISON says ULT can afford the £1.5m needed for all support staff to receive the amount paid to colleagues doing the same job.

UNISON head of education Mike Short said: “Every penny counts for low-paid workers, and even more so during the cost-of-living crisis.

“Support staff at the trust can’t afford to lose money they’re owed. They’ve earned it and desperately need to pay their bills.

“It’s grossly unfair for staff to do the same job as colleagues but get less pay. The academy trust must right this wrong and make sure all support workers are paid the same.”

Note to editors:
– *ULT has backdated the increase to April only for staff on National Joint Council (NJC) for local government services contracts. This includes workers employed by schools which ULT took over from local authorities. The academy trust’s negotiation process, which is separate from the NJC’s, runs from September to September.
– The NJC pay agreement for 2022/23 was for a flat rate of £1,925 for each worker. The money applies to each pay scale point with effect from 1 April 2022.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contacts:
Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: press@unison.co.uk
Anthony Barnes M: 07834 864794 E: a.barnes@unison.co.uk

The article England’s largest academy trust withholding back pay from staff, says UNISON first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Low-earning school support staff are paying for pupils’ food, skipping meals and taking on multiple jobs to survive

Cash-strapped school support staff are using their own money to help pupils and their families cope with the cost-of-living crisis, says UNISON today (Friday).

A ?UK-wide union survey of more than 6,000 school workers reveals staff – including teaching assistants, catering and cleaning workers, librarians and sports coaches – are buying food for hungry pupils, and contributing towards the cost of uniforms, shoes and stationery.

The findings have been released to mark Stars in our Schools, UNISON’s annual celebration of school support staff that is being marked in schools across the UK today (Friday).

Almost all the staff (98%) said they are concerned their pay isn’t enough to cover the spiralling cost of living. But despite these financial pressures, more than a fifth (23%) are using their own money to buy books, pencils and pens for pupils, and three in ten (30%) are helping pupils with the cost of uniforms, says UNISON.  

One in eight workers (13%) have used food banks in the past year, with many saying they may need to turn to them again or are relying on their families to provide meals.

The survey also found intolerable financial pressures are forcing many employees to consider leaving the education sector for better-paid jobs elsewhere.

More than a quarter (27%) had already taken second or third jobs to make ends meet and nearly half (49%) are actively looking for other jobs.

The exodus of support staff is heaping even more pressure on the colleagues they leave behind who find themselves stretched even more thinly, UNISON adds. 

UNISON head of education Mike Short said: “Schools are struggling to hold on to their support staff. Better wages are available elsewhere and that’s causing a recruitment crisis.

“These staff are crucial to the smooth running of schools and to the learning experiences of pupils in the classroom. Their pay should better reflect the invaluable support they provide. 

“Even though education workers are experiencing tough times themselves, they’re still helping less fortunate pupils and their families. That speaks volumes about their generosity and dedication, but it should never have come to this. The government should be hanging its head in shame.”

Note to editors:
– The survey report is available here.

– Case studies (names have been changed):
Heather has worked as a teaching assistant for four years. She said: “I’m looking for a new home because my £725-a-month rent is going up by more than £100. I’ll be left with around £50 a month to live on. I’m going to have to get another job to pay the bills. Staff have a food donation box for pupils. I’ve never seen things as bad.”
Geoff supports children with special educational needs and has worked in schools for more than 20 years. He said: “I work two jobs to make ends meet and have one day off a month. I can’t afford to put the heating on. Instead I bought an electric blanket that costs a penny an hour to keep me warm. There’s no incentive to do this job apart from the love of education and the pupils.”
Sue has been a teaching assistant for 10 years and is considering leaving the sector. She said: “I have a three-year-old and I’m struggling to pay for childcare. We live with my parents because we’re trying to buy a house, but our mortgage offer was withdrawn because we couldn’t afford the higher payments. I’m considering taking another job or quitting work altogether.”
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors. 

Media contacts:
Anthony Barnes M: 07834 864794 E: a.barnes@unison.co.uk
Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: press@unison.co.uk

The article Low-earning school support staff are paying for pupils’ food, skipping meals and taking on multiple jobs to survive first appeared on the UNISON National site.