• Sat. May 14th, 2022

Low wages are forcing school support staff to quit the ‘job they love’


A quarter of school support staff have taken on second or even third jobs to make ends meet, according to a survey by Unison, with the union warning of an exodus from the sector.

More than 4 in 10 (42%) of teaching assistants, custodians, cleaners and other school support staff are currently looking for other, better paid jobs due to low wages and the rising cost of living. life.

The results reveal that an overwhelming majority (96%) say the rate of pay for their school work is not sufficient to meet rising costs. Three in ten (31%) say they only bring in between £1,000 and £1,199 a month. A similar proportion earn less than £1,000 a month.

More than two-thirds of survey respondents (71%) worried about paying utility bills and council tax, and just under half (47%) worried about paying water. mortgage or rent.

Four in ten (41%) said they had to cut back on spending and 35% borrowed money from friends and family just to get by.

According to the results, 22 percent of the respondents had taken on an additional job and 3 percent had two additional jobs.

Some said they had to sell goods online, others work in nail bars, call centres, bars, restaurants and supermarkets, in addition to their work at school.

One respondent said: ‘I’ve taken jobs in the gig economy, mostly food delivery. Often I can spend the whole weekend working to earn around an extra £100 or else I can’t support my family. The ripple effect of this was that I neglected my child and his needs. It has put a strain on my relationship and is having a big impact on my mental health.

More than two-fifths (42%) said they were actively looking for a better paying job elsewhere. When asked what industries they searched for, the following responses were given:

Source: 2021 School Support Staff Compensation Survey, Unison

Comments left by school support staff who participated in the survey highlight the impact of the rising cost of living on them and their families.

Some school workers said they lived without heat or hot water because of broken boilers they couldn’t afford to fix, while others relied on food banks.

Some said they struggled with the cost of childcare, which one respondent said was ‘half their salary’.

“I can’t even pay my rent on my salary. I am renting a small two bedroom flat for £1100 a month with my husband who has cancer and cannot work full time,” said another.

Another respondent said: ‘As a single person, I’m just over the line for any financial help from the government and struggling to manage my bills. I panic every time I have to go to the dentist or the optician.

“I can only cope financially as my youngest son, who is 25, still lives at home. He contributes 50% of all bills and groceries. When he does eventually move out, I have serious fears as to how I’m going to cope,” another said.

A total of 6,398 school support staff responded to the Unison online survey between November 3 and 12.

Most responses came from staff working in primary schools (59%), including 27% in secondary schools, 10% in special schools, 3% in crèches and 1% in pupil guidance units.

The release of the survey results coincides with The Unison Stars in Our Schools celebrate school support staff today (Friday), with thousands of schools across the UK taking part.

Unison Deputy General Secretary Jon Richards said: “School support staff are a dedicated workforce who go the extra mile every day and work incredibly hard. Schools could not function without them. But many have reached a point where they simply can’t afford to stay in the job they love.

“Schools risk an exodus of support staff as people reluctantly seek better paying jobs. This is a terrible situation, given the tireless work of support staff throughout the pandemic, ensuring that schools remain open and free school meals are always provided.

“But the rising cost of bills, food and travel means that many stars in our schools are at risk of serious debt or losing their homes. They just don’t earn enough for the incredible work they do. The government must make additional funds available to enable schools to retain the support staff they depend on so much by paying them properly.

Unison is currently voting school support staff on a possible strike over a 1.75% wage offer put forward by local government employers. The consumer price index inflation rate is currently 4.2%.

The value of school support staff pay has been declining for a decade and for many it is now 25% lower than in 2010, according to Unison.

  • the 2021 School Support Staff Compensation Survey the report is available here