Support staff struggling with increasing workloads, says NEU survey

Teaching assistants, school administrators and other support staff are having to work overtime to cope with the increasing workload as schools cut staffing to cope with budget cuts, according to a National Education Union survey released today by the ATL section of the union at its annual conference in Liverpool.

The survey of over 1,700 teaching assistants, cover supervisors, administrators and lab technicians revealed that nearly eight in ten (78%) are regularly doing overtime every week, with 73% blaming their workload. A further 20% said their school expected them to do overtime, despite 60% saying their school does not pay them for extra hours worked.

One third (32%) work more than two days extra a month, while 13% work a minimum of an extra seven hours a week, equal to a day a week, over their contracted hours. A third (33%) rarely or never take their full lunch break and 40% rarely or never take a mid-morning or mid-afternoon break.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said: “Support staff are feeling the brunt of school cuts as schools struggle to make ends meet. Many are being made redundant, and those remaining are being expected to do more for the same pay. Not only is this blatantly unfair, it is also putting support staff under considerable pressure and making many ill. If the Government fails to find any more money for schools, children will start suffering as more staff go off sick with stress.”

A special support assistant (SSA) from West Sussex said: “I catch up on work emails at home as there is no opportunity at work, unless I stay late.”

Many members said their statutory 20-minute lunch break is often cut short by activities such as SEN supervision with a child, detentions, first aid duty, running a lunchtime club, lunch duty, running a prayer space or supervising a school trip.

A higher level teaching assistant (HTLA) in York said: “I work as a midday supervisory assistant at lunchtime so don't often get the break I am entitled to. The most I get is 10 minutes if I am lucky. I am in school at 6.45am each morning.”

A learning support assistant (LSA) in Rochdale said they spend their lunchtime “trying to mark, prepare for the afternoon's cover or running a lunch time library club: in theory, all the above is my choice, in practice, very necessary.”

Nearly one third of respondents (32%) said their workload was only manageable sometimes and 8% said they could never manage their workload. So it is unsurprising that nearly a quarter (24%) rarely mange to have a good work-life balance.

A teaching assistant (TA) in Staffordshire talked about being “too tired and mentally drained to go out and socialise.”

A PSHE (personal, social, and health education) and careers coordinator in Buckinghamshire, who regularly works over seven extra hours a week, said: “It is getting harder all the time and now my family are resentful of the time I spend working instead of attending to my partner and children”.

Many respondents said that switching-off is an issue. A teaching assistant from Bolton, who works nearly two extra days over his normal hours, said: “It's being able to switch-off that can be hard. In the past few years my mental health has been severely affected, impacting on my home life”.

A nursery nurse in Hertfordshire said: “Support staff in my school are very disillusioned and morale is very low”.

Sixty per cent of respondents said the number of support staff has fallen in their school in the past year.

In secondary schools the number of support staff declined by nearly five thousand between 2015 and 2016 and by almost ten thousand compared to 2013, while teacher numbers have fallen by six thousand since 2013.1

ENDS

1 Support staff in State funded secondary schools total number 2016: 166,400; 2015: 170,600; 2013: 175,500. FTE regular teachers in State funded secondary schools: 2016: 208,200; 2013: 214,200; Data taken from DfE: School workforce in England: November 2016 (Tables 2a & 2b)

 

Survey results:
Responses were collected in the autumn term of 2017 from 1,741 NEU members working as support staff in state-funded schools in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

How many extra hours over your contracted hours do you regularly work per week?

Answer Choices

Response Percent

Responses

None

22.20%

377

1-3 hours

45.35%

770

4-6 hours

19.67%

334

7-10 hours

6.77%

115

11 hours and over

6.01%

102

 

Answered

1698

 

Skipped

51

If you work extra hours is it because: (please tick all that are applicable)

Answer Choices

Response Percent

Responses

Your school demands that you do

4.97%

68

Your workload demands it

72.75%

996

You take on extra work because you want to

24.54%

336

It is expected that you do

19.72%

270

 

Answered

1369

 

Skipped

380

Are you paid or otherwise compensated for this extra work?

 

Answer Choices

Response Percent

Responses

Yes

17.59%

250

No

60.38%

858

Sometimes

22.03%

313

 

Answered

1421

 

Skipped

328

 

Are you paid for your lunch break?

   

Answer Choices

Response Percent

Responses

Yes

10.71%

181

No

81.60%

1379

Not sure

7.69%

130

 

Answered

1690

 

Skipped

59

If you answered 'No' to the previous Question, do you get to take your full lunch break?

Answer Choices

Response Percent

Responses

Yes

32.21%

467

Sometimes

34.48%

500

Rarely

21.45%

311

Never

11.86%

172

 

Answered

1450

 

Skipped

299

Are you paid for a mid-morning and/or a mid-afternoon break?

 

Answer Choices

Response Percent

Responses

Yes

41.54%

705

No

45.20%

767

Not sure

13.26%

225

 

Answered

1697

 

Skipped

52

If you answered 'Yes' to the previous Question, do you actually take the break?

Answer Choices

Response Percent

Responses

Yes

31.02%

295

Sometimes

28.71%

273

Rarely

17.67%

168

Never

22.61%

215

 

Answered

951

 

Skipped

798

Is your workload manageable?

   

Answer Choices

Response Percent

Responses

Always

6.33%

106

Most of the time

53.19%

891

Some of the time

31.88%

534

Never

8.60%

144

 

Answered

1675

 

Skipped

74

Can you achieve a good balance between your work and private life?

 

Answer Choices

Response Percent

Responses

Always

23.12%

387

Most of the time

53.05%

888

Some of the time

21.09%

353

Never

2.75%

46

 

Answered

1674

 

Skipped

75

Has the number of support staff in your school changed over the past year?

Answer Choices

Response Percent

Responses

Increased

13.25%

221

Decreased

59.95%

1000

Stayed the same

19.24%

321

Don't know

7.55%

126

 

Answered

1668

 

Skipped

81

         

 

Press release
09 April 2018