Over a quarter of school support workers would quit if holidays were changed, says UNISON

Over a quarter of school support workers would quit their jobs if Welsh government plans to shake-up the school year go ahead, says public services union UNISON today (Friday).

The Welsh government is consulting on proposals to shorten the school summer holiday by one week and lengthen the October half-term by a similar amount. The government says the move would boost pupil attainment and help minimise staff fatigue.

However, a UNISON Cymru/Wales survey of nearly 3,000 school support staff found they wanted ministers to prioritise dealing with staff shortages, low pay and increased workloads.

The survey found more than a quarter (27%) said they would consider looking for a different job if the summer holiday was reduced in schools in Wales.

Half of the support staff (50%) who have a second job in the summer said it would be harder to find other employment if the holiday was reduced.

Almost half (44%) of school staff who are also parents said they would be hit with higher heating and entertainment costs if their children were off school for the extra week in October, when it tends to be colder and wetter than in the summer.

When asked about what they thought were the main issues affecting schools, they listed increased workloads, budget cuts and staff shortages as their top three priorities.

When asked what would improve staff wellbeing in schools, they called for better pay, staff to be paid all year round and the recruitment of more staff.

UNISON Cymru/Wales school support staff forum chair Sara Allen said: “School support workers care passionately about helping children and making sure their time at school is a successful and enjoyable one. They certainly aren’t in it for the money.

“Support staff are feeling the pressure because they have too few colleagues and an impossible workload. They need the longer summer holiday to recover from such a demanding job.

“Moving a holiday week to October will increase the financial burden for staff and is likely to mean many teaching assistants decide to quit.”

UNISON Cymru Wales lead officer for schools Rosie Lewis said: “The school workforce is still feeling bruised from Covid and is already under enormous pressure dealing with the changes to the curriculum for Wales.

“Staff haven’t received an above-inflation pay rise for 15 years and have been badly affected by the cost-of-living crisis.

We call upon the Welsh government to scrap its proposals to change the structure of the school year and to work with UNISON to tackle the urgent issues that matter to the whole education workforce.” 

Notes to editors:

UNISON school support staff were surveyed between 30 November 2023-15 December 2023. The union received 2,824 responses.

-The survey results can be accessed online here.

-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.