Support the support staff

15th January 2010 at 00:00

It is unhelpful and misleading to say: "Apart from cleaning the loos . teaching is pretty much the lowest status occupation in any college" (Stephen Jones, January 8).

Colleges are complex organisations, employing a wide range of occupational and professional groups. But all staff are facing difficult and worrying times.

Over the past six months, for example, we have seen a big increase in the number of colleges cutting jobs. Job cuts affect lecturing and support staff alike. This is why it is so important that they work together to defend provision and jobs.

However, we still need to recognise that support staff feel that they are valued far less by their colleges than lecturers.

Support staffs' terms and conditions of service, including holidays and pay, are much less favourable. In 200809, more than a third of colleges in England refused even to pay their lowest paid support staff the pound;550 cost-of-living increase recommended by the Association of Colleges.

Some colleges even pay rates as low as the national minimum wage.

Support staff are simply not on the radar of most colleges when it comes to staff development.

The focus seems to be on meeting the qualifications and CPD requirements of teaching staff.

Stephen is correct to say that teachers are not valued enough, but to suggest they are "the lowest status occupation in any college" ignores the plight of many support staff.

Unison will continue to work closely with our colleagues in the lecturers' unions to defend the jobs and terms and conditions of all college staff. It is one mutual struggle.

Dave Prentis, General secretary, Unison.

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