School support staff increasingly having to teach

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A survey of nearly 1,000 school support staff by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, reveals that almost eight in ten believe they are doing the job of a supply teacher.

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School support staff say they are increasingly asked to teach, rather than supervise children in the classroom, even though they are paid only the support staff rate

The figure is up from 64 per cent on the year before, an increase of 14 percentage points.

The teaching union ATL surveyed its members working as support staff in state-funded and academy schools in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man, last winter.

Almost three-quarters of respondents indicated that it was not possible to supervise a class without delivering a lesson. This is despite the role of a cover supervisor to just supervise pupils’ work, but not teach.

A teaching assistant (TA) in a primary academy in Buckinghamshire said, ‘We are expected to deliver high-quality lessons not just supervise the class.’

A cover supervisor in an academy in Swindon added, ‘Very rarely do we not teach.’

Over a quarter of those that took part in the survey said that they are expected to carry out the full range of duties of a teacher, even though they are paid at a support staff rate.

The ATL warns that using these members of staff to cover lessons is ‘placing an even greater burden on their shoulders’.

The survey also found that three-quarters of support staff are having to work extra hours because their workload demands it. Almost a third work over four hours extra each week and of those, 11 per cent stated they are working more than seven hours extra a week. The majority of them are not being paid for the extra hours.

Moreover, almost half of respondents revealed that the number of support staff in their school has fallen, with many stating anecdotally that when staff leave they are not being replaced.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL, said, 'As these results show, support staff are feeling the pressure to actually teach lessons and to plug the gap in staff shortages when teachers leave and do not get replaced. As the Government continues to squeeze school budgets, there simply aren’t enough funds to replace staff.

'It is worrying that this year more support staff feel the work they do when acting as cover supervisor is identical to that done by supply teachers. Support staff are struggling under excessive workloads as much as teachers and this survey shows that, sadly, support staff feel over-utilised and undervalued.

'It is unacceptable that so many support staff are working longer hours and are not being paid for them. Even more so, they are feeling that they have to work longer hours because their workload demands it.'

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