Overworked and underpaid, support staff are feeling the knock-on effects of teachers' excessive workloads - ATL

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Press release
02 February 2015 by ATL Media Office
Seventy-five percent of support staff work over their contracted hours because their workload demands it, according to a survey by ATL.

Seventy-five percent of support staff work over their contracted hours because their workload demands it, according to a survey conducted by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).

Over 1,600 support staff working in UK state-funded schools responded to the survey and 21% reported having to work between four and six extra hours a week. Just over one in 10 said they regularly have to work seven extra hours or more.

Of those working over their contracted hours, just 12% regularly receive remuneration for their overtime, with 70% going unpaid. The remaining respondents said they receive extra pay on occasion.

Of ATL members who undertake cover supervision, 53% reported no difference in criteria between their duties and those of a supply teacher, while 62% said it is not possible to supervise a class in their school without delivering a lesson themselves.

Of the 11% of respondents who do hold a teaching qualification, 71% revealed they are still expected to teach whole classes but on a support staff rate of pay.

Dr Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary, said: "This survey clearly shows that support staff are in need of their own Workload Challenge investigation. It is vital they are not overlooked in discussions surrounding the curbing of excessive working hours among education staff.

"It is totally unfair to expect support staff to teach classes without the appropriate training or remuneration - it sells both them and their pupils short. Clearly support staff are feeling the knock-on effects of teachers' excessive workloads. The Government must recognise they should not be the ones picking up the slack."

A teaching assistant at an academy in England said: "Support staff are taking on more and more work and dealing with the most challenging students without any financial incentive or proper training. We are severely under-valued and often excluded from 'whole school' events. We are unable to move out of our current pay band yet are expected to take on more responsibilities and are on the front-line when it comes to dealing with students. Senior staff are dismissive of us and morale is extremely low."

A higher level teaching assistant at an Academy in England said: "There needs to be more guidance on what are reasonable duties for support staff to undertake. I gave up teaching but because I'm qualified I'm under pressure to do a teacher's job on support staff pay."

A cover supervisor from an academy in England said: "Support staff regularly work beyond their contracted hours to fulfil the needs of the school. Very rarely is this time compensated through additional pay. Cover supervisors are used as a cheap alternative to teachers to cover long-term illness or maternity leave."

A teaching assistant (TA) in a primary school in England said: "The biggest issue currently facing me and my colleagues is workload. We are constantly given more things to do such as interventions, phonics groups and cover supervision with very little time allowed for us to adequately prepare for these sessions. When we do have time allotted to us we can be pulled away to do other things. This is on top of the day to day jobs in the classroom that have to be done. I know a lot of TAs who take work home with them to do at the weekend."

An office manager at a secondary academy in England said: "The workload I am expected to cope with has increased massively over the last few years. There is an attitude that if I don't want the job then there's always someone out there who would want it, so we are expected to just put up with extra workload and poor, term-time only pay."

Further notes:

Responses from 1,668 ATL members working as support staff in state-funded and academy schools in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man. The survey was carried out in August 2014. To view the full survey stats click here.

Notes to editors

  1. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) is an independent, registered trade union and professional association, representing approximately 170,000 teachers, headteachers, lecturers and support staff in maintained and independent nurseries, schools, sixth form, tertiary and further education colleges in the United Kingdom.
  2. ATL exists to help members, as their careers develop, through first rate research, advice, information and legal advice.
  3. ATL is affiliated to the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) and Education International (EI). ATL is not affiliated to any political party and seeks to work constructively with all the main political parties.