Hard Lessons: Support staff struggling to maintain standards for pupils because of cuts

thumbnail of 20170109 Schools Damage SeriesThis is a large scale survey of support staff working in schools across Scotland. It is a wide ranging report giving a clear overview of what is going on in Scottish schools.

Its main finding is that support staff have lack of time, lack of resources and heavy workloads which mean they are struggling to maintain standards for pupils in Scotland.

They report  jobs cuts, lack of educational supplies, less technicians and cleaning staff who work harder than ever to keep our schools clean.

This is while pupil numbers and education support needs are increasing. There are 6707 more pupils since 2010 in Scottish schools, but there 1841 less support staff and 1389 less teachers. This report confirms the enormous stress this puts on support staff.

  • 54 per cent of support staff say budgets have been cut
  • 40 per cent carry out unpaid work to meet workloads
  • 60 per cent say morale is low
  •  80 per cent say workloads are heavier
  • And services like school libraries, lunch clubs and music tuition is being cut or is closing

Many report stress from the lack of training and support they receive for the tasks they are asked to carry out – like administering medicines or caring for pupils with challenging behaviour. The report reveals a dedicated workforce committed to supporting children to reach their potential. Staff skip breaks and work late to meet their pupil’s needs. But they are exhausted, undervalued and under enormous pressure.

Those who took part in survey include classroom assistants, pupil support workers, school administrative and clerical staff as well as cleaning staff, janitors, technicians, catering staff, librarians and library assistants, and home-link workers. The vast majority of those who responded were long term staff who can compare schools now to pre-austerity. Just over 90% of those who responded to our survey identified as female. Respondents work in 25 different local authorities. The vast majority had been in post for 11 years or more.

The report also highlights a high level of anxiety from classroom assistants who are expected to undertake a range of personal care and medical interventions including: checking blood sugar, insulin injections, catheterisation, tube feeding, and dealing with tracheotomy tubes – all carry high degrees of risk. Many staff feel they have not been given adequate training and risk assessment that these tasks involve. Members also report increased levels of challenging behaviour – and in some cases, violence – in schools.