William Eichler 25 November 2022

School support staff forced to pay for pupils’ food

School support staff forced to pay for pupils’ food  image
Image: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com.

School support staff are paying for pupils’ food, skipping meals and taking on multiple jobs to survive, a union poll has revealed.

A UK-wide UNISON survey of more than 6,000 school workers reveals staff – including teaching assistants, catering and cleaning workers, librarians and sports coaches – are buying food for hungry pupils, and contributing towards the cost of uniforms, shoes and stationery.

Almost all the staff (98%) told the union that they are concerned their pay isn't enough to cover the spiralling cost of living. However, more than a fifth (23%) are using their own money to buy books, pencils and pens for pupils, and three in 10 (30%) are helping pupils with the cost of uniforms.

UNISON’s poll also revealed that one in eight workers (13%) have used food banks in the past year, with many saying they may need to turn to them again or are relying on their families to provide meals.

More than a quarter of the survey respondents (27%) have already taken second or third jobs to make ends meet and nearly half (49%) are actively looking for other jobs.

UNISON head of education Mike Short said: ‘Schools are struggling to hold on to their support staff. Better wages are available elsewhere and that's causing a recruitment crisis.

‘These staff are crucial to the smooth running of schools and to the learning experiences of pupils in the classroom. Their pay should better reflect the invaluable support they provide.

‘Even though education workers are experiencing tough times themselves, they’re still helping less fortunate pupils and their families. That speaks volumes about their generosity and dedication, but it should never have come to this. The government should be hanging its head in shame.’

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