Majority of support staff working unpaid overtime

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Three-quarters of support staff report working more than their contracted hours on a regular basis – with a vast majority not getting paid any extra for the overtime.

A survey of more than 1,600 support staff in UK state schools finds that 46 per cent work an average of one to three hours extra per week, 21 per cent work four to six extra hours extra, eight per cent more than seven hours extra, and three per cent more than 11.

Despite this, 70 per cent report never getting paid for their overtime, while 17 per cent got paid “sometimes” and just 13 per cent were always remunerated.

The survey, which was undertaken by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), also reveals that workload demands are why 75 per cent of the support staff find themselves forced into overtime.

Elsewhere in the survey, 173 (11 per cent) of the support staff have PGCE or qualified teacher status, and of these 72 per cent said they were being asked to teach whole classes despite being paid at support staff rates.

Furthermore, of those support staff in the survey asked to undertake cover supervision, 53 per cent said they were effectively being used as supply teachers.

Among the comments made by respondents to the survey, one teaching assistant at an academy in England said that support staff in their school were taking on “more and more work and dealing with the most challenging students without any financial incentive or proper training”.

They added: “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.”

Meanwhile, one higher level teaching assistant who gave up teaching admits to being under pressure to take on teaching duties in their school just because they are qualified. 

They added: “There needs to be more guidance on what are reasonable duties for support staff to undertake.”

And one cover supervisor from an academy in England reported that support staff colleagues were regularly working beyond their contracted hours. 

They said: “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.”

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL, 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.”

 


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