Lessons in Austerity

Date: 17.09.2018

A survey of 12,120 school support staff across the UK by UNISON revealed the extent to which school funding reductions have impacted on this sector of the workforce. It paints a bleak picture.

 

ABSRACT

Funding issues

Despite government assertions about increased money going to schools, the vast majority of survey respondents said their education establishments were facing funding problems. Nearly nine in ten (87%) said that either there had been significant cuts to staff and resources in their workplace, or that managers had warned of more cuts to come. Others said that even though no ‘official’ announcements had been made, cutbacks in their schools were noticeable.

Restructures

UNISON believes that staffing restructures have almost become a way of life in many schools. Overall, 76% of staff said that their school had been subjected to restructuring, or that it was planned for the near future. Over a third (38%) of respondents said there had been more than one staffing restructure in the past five years, which suggests these exercises are not working terribly well.

Workload issues

In the UNISON survey, more than 70% of staff stated that they undertook tasks that used to be performed by a colleague on more pay, with 35% saying that they did so without sufficient training. Most said this was because they were having to take on work previously done by someone who had been made redundant.

School employees reported feeling overwhelmed and anxious by the increased demands, and constantly pulled in different directions. Two in five (42%) said they were regularly taken away from their core duties to cover ‘emergencies’, while three in five (59%) said they always felt rushed because of their heavy workload.

Staff also mentioned having to work through their breaks to supervise children and perform first aid, often without adequate training. Teaching assistants raised issues around being expected to teach, provide cover and perform jobs that higher level teaching assistants should do – without being paid for this. Nearly half the staff (46%) said they did unpaid overtime on a regular basis.

Funding was mentioned many times as a reason behind the workload issues. Hundreds of comments received as part of the survey blamed poor management planning. A large number of respondents said children with special educational needs and disabilities were not getting adequate support.

The survey reveals that the majority of staff are under great stress, which is affecting their work and their health. Over four-fifths (83%) of respondents said they had experienced stress as a result of their workload in the past five years, with one in five (20%) needing to take time off work.