The hard work of thousands of school support staff providing emergency care for key workers’ children across the country appears to have been ignored by the government, a union has said.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson has written to school leaders expressing his “deepest gratitude for the absolutely vital service” heads and teachers are providing.
But the letter made no mention of teaching assistants, administrative staff, caretakers, cleaners or any of the other support staff without whom schools could not open, says public service union Unison.
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Unison head of education Jon Richards said: “As many teachers and heads succumb to the virus or work from home, in some places there’d be nowhere for key workers’ children to go without the help of support staff.
“They are very much part of the national effort to fight the virus. They're going out to work every day, risking their health and that of their families, to do their bit. They’d like to see the government acknowledging their efforts too.”
“No one would begrudge the thanks and appreciation shown to teaching staff. But the failure to acknowledge the real efforts of school support staff is very upsetting to them.
“They do what they do because they love their jobs and get great satisfaction from contributing to the learning experience of pupils."
The union has now written to the education secretary urging the government to show its thanks to all school staff.
It says this is a response to the many school support staff who've been contacting the union expressing “extreme disappointment” that they were not mentioned in Mr Williamson's letter – “despite making as much effort as teaching colleagues”.
The union is also seeking urgent clarity from the government as to what personal protective equipment (PPE) school support staff should currently be using.
The DfE says Mr Williamson’s letter not only addresses “leaders of our schools and colleges” but also “their staff”, which refers to support staff as well as teachers.
It also highlights a tweet by Mr Williamson in which he thanks all “school leaders, teachers and staff” for their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.
At the end of a difficult week, I would like to say a massive thank you to all the school leaders, teachers and staff who have show immense dedication as they step up to help this country tackle coronavirus.#StayHomeSaveLives pic.twitter.com/DOSg7EP2re— Gavin Williamson (@GavinWilliamson) March 28, 2020