It takes a whole team to make a school a safe and happy place for children to learn. But this year has been unlike any other.
As they always do, school staff have rolled up their sleeves and pitched in wherever needed.
During the first national lockdown, I was so proud of our members who kept schools open – delivering learning packs and preparing free school meals; providing pastoral care by phone and keeping classrooms safe for vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers.
Now that schools are open to all pupils, they are battling to keep up with demanding cleaning schedules, reassuring worried parents and supporting pupils to stay on track.
Some of these wonderful staff – particularly the school meals workers – are now facing threats to their incomes and jobs through the actions of some private contractors seeking to cut costs.
And while the government has too often reserved any praise for teachers alone, this union is immensely proud to represent the support staff who make up over half of the schools workforce. We will always stand up for them.
In good times and bad, our members help children learn, keep them safe and healthy and make sure schools run smoothly. They are the cleaners, the caterers, the teaching assistants, the admin staff, the finance officers, the librarians, the ICT technicians, the parent support advisers, and literally hundreds of other job roles throughout primary, secondary and special schools all over the country.
Every year we applaud these Stars in Our Schools, with a day dedicated to raising awareness of their vital role in children’s education.
Our celebration day for 2020 is on Friday 27 November and I’ll sorely miss my usual visit to a school to join a special assembly, meet the fantastic staff and talk to the pupils they dedicate their working lives to.
To the government, we continue to say – do not forget these staff. Their safety is paramount and their contribution immeasurable.
And to UNISON’s members, working in these most difficult times to support pupils’ learning and wellbeing, I want to say thank you. You are doing your school and your union proud.