Christina McAnea stresses how vital school support staff are

‘If support staff didn’t do their job, you’d notice it’

Christina McAnea address the school support staff seminar in Cardiff

The annual UNISON school support staff seminar took place recently in Cardiff, providing the chance for activists in schools to develop their skills and knowledge in the sector, through a combination of speaker presentations and workshops.

General secretary Christina McAnea told those attending: “You are a really important group within our union. About one in five of our members are school support staff – that’s how big a group you are in our union.

“And that’s really important, because it means we have a real voice within the schools in this country.

“We need to build up our representation in schools, so that we have a strong voice in schools to stop the exploitation that we see of support staff, and make sure you get the recognition and the reward you deserve for the really important jobs that you do.”

Catherine McKinnell MP address the school support staff seminar in Cardiff

Catherine McKinnell MP (pictured above), the shadow minister for schools told the seminar: “School staff have been badly let down. We’ve got a staffing crisis in our schools, we’ve got turnover higher than before the pandemic. Staff feel overworked, overstretched and undervalued”.

She continued: “We need to attract the best and hold onto the best staff and part of this would involve reinstating the School Support Staff Negotiating Body, which would make sure support staff have a voice and seat at the table.

“Too many support staff are leaving our schools, leaving jobs they love to find pay and conditions that are better elsewhere.

Of a future Labour government, she added: “We will listen and work with schools to deliver that change that we know our schools and our children need to see”.

The seminar also heard from Karl Hopwood, an independent e-safety expert, who sits on the advisory board for the UK Safer Internet Centre and the education advisory board for The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (CEOP).

He said: “All staff, regardless of their role in their school, need to have some sort of online safety induction, which needs to be updated year-on-year.

“We have to address and talk about online safety in schools.

“Every school should have a clear policy on the use of mobile and smart technology in schools for the professionals and children.”

UNISON members attending the school support staff seminar in Cardiff marking the tenth year of Stars in Our Schools

Those attending the seminar co-ordinated group photos to celebrate 2024 being the tenth year of Stars in Our Schools (above).

Topics that were discussed in the workshops included the impact of teaching assistants covering classes, tackling racism in schools, UNISON’s Year of LGBT+ Workers, online safety and more.

The day also offered the opportunity to network with fellow reps and discuss issues that matter to school support staff across the UK.