Friday, June 20, 2008

Susan Dunning Assistant Branch Secretary reports from conference...

I could have spent the whole of my life trying to explain the poor terms and conditions that support staff in school have to work under. It very difficult to convey how oppressive working in schools can be. At the UNISON Local Government Conference the situation was summed up by Paul Holmes the Branch Secretary for Kirklees Council.

“Here at Kirklees UNISON Branch, we don’t refer to education; we don’t call it education anymore. We call the department for people working as support staff in schools as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Department”

Needless to say the crowd went wild. Immediately I thought of all the evil frosty queens who we work for, who if they had the power to turn us to stone they would.

Paul went on to elaborate “the reason why we call it the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Department is because we are tired of hearing - I can’t speak any louder I’m calling you from a cupboard!” How true. I cannot count the number of similar conversations I have had over the short period I’ve worked for UNISON and the delegates not working in schools were genuinely shocked that this was the case.

Time and time again support staff are subsidising the schools they work for with unpaid overtime. Taking pay cuts through reduced hours, but often having to work the original hours otherwise, " it’s the children who will loose out”. The latest situation in schools to hit the headlines is that teaching assistants are being used as unpaid teachers. If you are qualified and appointed at grade 3 under certain circumstances you can do more, if you are grade 4 you can take on more of a teaching role. Outside of these grades you must not. We know it goes on. We know that heads ask this of level 2 staff but they refuse to appoint them at level 3 despite being qualified and the same with staff at level 3 who are qualified and should be appointed at level 4 or HLTA status. We also know heads will deny it.

Many feel that their job security is based on the whim of the head teacher and are afraid to speak out. Though humorous Paul Holmes was bang on the money in describing the lot of many support staff in schools. There are good heads out there, but it’s the bad ones who stand out and bring the standards down.

If this resonates with you Barnet UNISON wants to hear from you, so call us on 020 8 359 2088 0r email
Susan Dunning.

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