William Eichler 02 June 2017

Pupils ‘at risk’ from cuts to school support staff, union says

The safety of pupils is being put at risk by school cuts, public sector union claims as survey reveals school office employees are carrying out tasks that go beyond their remit.

A survey by Unison has found school administrators, business managers and finance workers are regularly administering first aid, handing out medicines to pupils and conducting criminal record checks because of cuts in the number of school support staff.

The union warned that Government advice to merge support staff or share them between schools could put children’s health and well-being at risk as staff are already overstretched, with excessive workloads their top concern (87%).

The majority of the 1,400 school office employees questioned (95%) have regular contact with pupils, parents or carers (86%) and more than three-quarters (78%) liaise directly with local authorities and charities to carry out checks.

Just over seven in 10 (71%) said they ensure that people visiting schools are safe to do so, and over four in 10 (41%) organise security checks to make certain new staff have no previous criminal convictions.

More than half the employees surveyed (55%) say they administer medicines and first aid to pupils, and over six in 10 (62%) update school medical records.

Almost half the respondents (47%) said that the number of administrative staff had been cut over the last year. This has left almost three-quarters of those (74%) in post with no alternative but to work additional, unpaid hours.

Despite the majority (63%) of survey respondents working full-time, one in 10 said they need a second job to make ends meet.

‘School office staff go above and beyond every single day and schools would struggle to manage without them. If their jobs go, everyone – heads, teachers, pupils and parents – would notice the difference,’ said Unison head of education Jon Richards.

‘These employees play a vital role keeping children safe, reassuring parents and ensuring the smooth and cost-effective running of schools. Without them, already overstretched teachers and teaching assistants could be pulled out of classrooms.

‘Cutbacks in education funding are having a devastating impact on children’s education. With money so tight, schools are having to slash the amount they spend on books, tablets and computers, and go cap in hand to parents.

‘Instead, of starving schools of funds, the government should invest in education and ensure children get the start they deserve in life.’

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