Twenty-one schools in Gwynedd are cutting the amount of assistance students receive in the classroom. Hundreds of support staff have been told their working hours could be reduced or they could be made redundant because the council doesn’t have any more money.
School support staff are organised by UNISON and the trade union has warned inevitably the quality of education for Gwynedd students will suffer. In some cases, secretarial staff face redundancy too.
Support staff undertake vital but unheralded jobs which make schools the success they are. They assist Special Educational Needs children and those in need of extra support; help teachers to cope with big classes; release teachers for preparation time and help those with English as an Additional Language.
Geoff Edkins, UNISON regional organiser said,
“When a factory makes a hundred plus people redundant, there’s an almighty stink in the media and politicians are quick to intervene with an action plan. There’s no doubt whatsoever support staff contribute to a school’s success but because they are low paid women, spread over Gwynedd’s schools and often on precarious contracts, there’s a feeling the council can simply get away with it. We would question how classroom teaching remains viable when schools are losing support staff in this magnitude.
“Morale is rock bottom because the situation is similar each year. Imagine every September not knowing whether you’ll have a job the following year, whether your hours will be reduced and your take-home pay cut but that is the lot of the school support assistant. That’s no way to run our school’s or children’s education.
“Support workers are professionally registered and they regularly go way beyond their duties to help students and teachers every day. They don’t deserve to be treated in such an off-hand manner.”
UNISON has called for Gwynedd schools and the local authority to make good any shortfall in budgeting from their reserves. The trade union has said seven years of UK government spending cuts have robbed Welsh local authorities of the money needed to invest in schools and other local public services.
Notes for editors
- The majority of TAs are women; they suffer low pay, a lack of career opportunities and institutional discrimination that belittles their role. Part-time, casual and term time working, dominate.
- Teachers have nationally agreed, uniform rates of pay, but the salaries of Wales’ tens of thousands of TAs vary depending on where they work; pay is set by each of the 22 local authorities and their experience and responsibility are not always recognised in the pay structure. Some TAs work without a proper written and agreed job description; you can have the same job title doing very different duties, receiving vastly different pay across Wales. UNISON Cymru Wales campaigns for a career structure linked to uniform rates of pay and grading and a qualifications framework paid for by the employer.
Alastair Gittins, UNISON press officer 07816 53 83 97.