Impact of cuts in school support staff revealed by Unison

Written by Tom Freeman on 16 January 2017 in News

Morale low after cuts in support staff like cleaners and librarians, warns trade union

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The number of staff supporting teachers in school has dropped by 1,841 since 2010, according to public services trade union Unison.

The cuts have come at a time when the number of pupils has risen, and more children with additional support needs are being identified.

A survey of members by Unison shows 80 per cent reporting an increased workload as a result, with 60 per cent responding that morale is low.


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Those who took part in the survey include classroom assistants, admin staff and cleaners, janitors, technicians, catering staff, librarians and library assistants.

Unison regional manager Dave Watson said: “The Scottish government has targets to reduce inequality in educational outcomes. Sadly, it is children from the most deprived backgrounds that need the access to libraries, or help from librarians. They are less likely to have computers, printers or quiet, warm places to do homework.

“If school libraries have limited opening hours and do not have qualified staff then young people will have less access to information and less support to find the information even when it is open.

Education Secretary John Swinney told BBC Good Morning Scotland the number of classroom assistants has increased in the last 12 months to provide additional support for learning.

“The proper training and support has to be in place for all individuals that are supporting young people who have additional support needs,” he added.

However councils say diminishing budgets and a guarantee on teacher numbers by the Scottish Government has led to cuts elsewhere.

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), which represents a number of independent service providers and charities, welcomed the Unison report.

A spokesperson for the group said: “We have highlighted on numerous occasions our concerns over a decline in the number of support staff in our schools, especially as they relate to those pupils with additional support needs (ASN).”

According to SCSC the number of pupils with ASN has increased by 47 per cent since 2012, the number of ASN auxiliaries or care assistants fell by just under 10 per cent and the number of behaviour support staff by just under 15 per cent.

It also reports the number of specialist ASN teachers has also dropped to an all-time low.

“While we, like Unison, support the principle of mainstreaming, the resources are simply not there to support pupils with ASN. This is having an impact not only on the young person concerned, but also putting undue pressure on others in the class as well as teaching staff,” the SCSC spokesperson said.

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