Teaching assistants see their workload and unpaid overtime rocket

Stephen Exley

More than 80 per cent of teaching assistants (TAs) have seen their workload increase in the last year, with one in 10 clocking up more than six hours of unpaid overtime every week, a new survey has revealed.

The study by public sector union Unison, which surveyed almost 8,000 TAs across the country, also found growing worries among school staff about pay, workload and job security.

A massive 95 per cent of respondents said they were concerned about pay, with 89 per cent citing fears about job security and 30 per cent expressing concerns about staffing levels.

Jon Richards, Unison’s national secretary for education and children’s services, said the issue was particularly serious for school support staff as – unlike teachers – they often have term time-only contracts.

“Many TAs have to take on summer jobs to cope,” Mr Richards added. “When the pay freeze came in, people were prepared to knuckle down due to fears about their job security.

“After four or five years, however, a sudden increase in gas or electric bills can have a dramatic impact on low-paid workers. The low level of pay is having a massive impact on their day-to-day lives.”

Today Unison is launching the TA Celebration Day – #loveTAs – to honour the work of teaching assistants. It is calling for TAs to be “rewarded for their tireless work through a proper career structure and better pay, terms and conditions”.

The TES is also taking part by asking teachers on Twitter to tell us why they love their TA. The winner will win an iPad for the TA they have celebrated.

Mr Richards told TES that the campaign was prompted by reports that the Treasury was looking to cut the Department for Education’s budget by axing swathes of school support staff.

In June, a report by right-leaning think tank Reform also argued that schools could improve value for money by cutting the number of TAs and increasing class sizes.

“TAs make a real impact in improving attainment,” Mr Richards said. “They are not just a mums' army; they are incredibly important and have a vital function in schools.”

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Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley is a freelance writer, director of external affairs at Villiers Park Educational Trust and former FE editor at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @stephenexley

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