A joint vision for the future of school support staff has been presented at the union’s school support staff seminar

UNISON and the shadow education secretary, Bridget Phillipson, have today released a joint statement at the union’s school support staff seminar.

The statement highlights the vital role that school support staff have played during the pandemic, the woeful response of the government to the cost of living crisis, and reinforced UNISON and Labour’s belief that school support staff need to be ‘front and centre of the future school system’.

Ms Phillipson, who gave the key-note speech at the seminar, said: “School support staff always play a vital role in our schools and the last two years have brought that home to everyone.

“I’m delighted to be speaking at UNISON’s school support staff seminar and setting out Labour’s vision for the changes we need in our schools.

“At a time when government should be working with staff and unions and matching our children’s ambition for the future, we’re instead seeing a complete failure by government to rise to the challenges we face. Only Labour can deliver the change we need.”

General secretary Christina McAnea added: “We owe school support staff a debt of gratitude for their tireless, highly professional work, not only during the pandemic but before and beyond that as well.

“Now, after two years when we relied on them more than ever, they’re facing an ever-deepening cost of living crisis, caused by the Westminster government’s political choices. School support staff are already on low pay, and it’s being eroded throughout this crisis.

“The government cannot continue to ignore these vital, professional workers. They and employers must acknowledge their crucial role in our education system, and take urgent action on their pay and progression.”

Full text of the joint statement

“School support staff are crucial to our schools. COVID-19 served to highlight this: they worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, supporting face-to-face education, pupil welfare and the provision of free school meals, despite concerns about the risks to their own health.

The government’s acknowledgment of school support staff has been woeful – apart from one passing reference they are completely ignored in the current schools white paper.

There’s nothing on pay, nothing on training, nothing on progression. This is not only insulting to the professionalism of these staff, but short-sighted given the recruitment & retention crisis schools are facing and the cost of living crisis which hits the lowest paid the hardest.

Labour and UNISON believe that school support staff need to be front and centre of the future schools system. From opening up the gates, providing clean spaces to learn, helping children progress, supporting children with special needs, cooking nutritious meals, signposting families in need, to enabling the smooth running of the school – without school support staff, schools could just not function.

Schools are facing a recruitment and retention crisis due to endemic low pay, the increasing cost of living and the government’s absolute failure to take the necessary measures. School support staff deserve a positive career structure and decent pay.

This is not only morally the right thing to do, but essential for schools to function and for children to get the catch-up support they so desperately need.” 

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