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School visits not in vain

Over the last 2 years UNISON North West has invested a lot of time and effort visiting schools to explain to support staff the work of the SSSNB. The project was made possible by a number of front line school support staff volunteers who were seconded from their jobs to visit schools in their area. The secondees had detailed knowledge of how schools operated. Although some were existing UNISON stewards, others volunteered for the role as they were clearly interested in how SSSNB could improve the conditions for support staff working in schools and wanted the opportunity of meeting support staff in other schools to see whether their issues were the same as the ones experienced by them.

The secondees were taken aback by the following issues being brought up in virtually every school.

  • Providing medical aid: Some of the medicines administered to children should only be administered by qualified staff such as nurses and certainly not by untrained support staff. UNISON has since produced a useful guide on what support staff are required to do as well as what training should be provided in the first instance.
  • Personal care: In some schools staff were putting themselves at risk by leaving themselves open to allegations due to the lack of policies.
  • Unpaid overtime: Many staff arrive early, leave late and do not have a proper break. From a contractual point of view staff need only work their contracted hours and if they are required to work additional hours they should be paid. Headteachers turning a blind eye to unpaid overtime is not the answer particularly when some of them earn 10 times as much!
  • Temporary Contracts: We all acknowledge the need to employ someone on a temporary contract to cover staff on maternity leave, but 19 years on a temporary contract is a bit excessive.
  • Job Evaluation: The people carrying this out on behalf of the Local Authority had very little knowledge and experience of work undertaken in schools, which resulted in some bizarre scores. You just can’t compare the role of someone working in a school to other jobs in the Town Hall. As a consequence there was chaos as support staff, supported by UNISON, appealed in droves against their original scores.
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