Education & Family

Support staff doing teachers' work, says union

Child looking at adult Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Teacher shortages and budget pressures mean unqualified support staff are having to work as teachers, the ATL says

Teacher shortages mean classroom support staff are doing work normally done by qualified teachers, suggests a survey of union members.

Some two-thirds of almost 700 classroom supervisors who responded felt they did the work of supply teachers, says the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

"This can only lead to lower educational standards," said ATL general secretary Mary Bousted.

The government said support staff should not be used to replace teachers.

Last week, a report by the official spending watchdog confirmed there were growing teacher shortages in many areas, with the government having missed recruitment targets for four years.

Dr Bousted said teacher shortages, along with increasing pressure on school budgets, were leading to the use of support staff to replace teachers "in a way that was never intended".

"So rather than hiring a temporary teacher, schools are asking support staff to teach.

"They should not be asked to do it," said Dr Bousted.


Overall, of the 1,763 support staff who responded to the survey, the overwhelming majority were in England, with 67 in Wales and smaller numbers from other parts of the UK.

Of these, some 78% said they regularly worked overtime, with 44% saying they put in up to three hours, and 12% seven hours or more extra time per week.

Only 11% said they always got paid for additional hours.

Of almost 700 who answered questions on supervising classes for absent teachers, 72% said it was impossible to supervise without teaching some form of lesson.

And 64% felt their work as cover supervisors was indistinguishable from supply teaching.

Some reported being asked to undertake lesson planning and marking as well.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Education staff face unacceptable workloads, says the ATL

"In any given week I can cover up to 30 lessons plus two registrations a day," said a cover supervisor in a Kent secondary school.

"The work is exhausting. Pupils do not treat support staff with the same respect as teaching staff. We are teaching lessons... our pay rate does not reflect our responsibility levels."

A teaching assistant in a Warwick primary said: "I cover teachers two days a week during which time I teach the class.

"The financial reward for doing this is barely noticeable in my wages.

"Workload is as big a problem for support staff as it is for teachers."


The ATL has called on the government to address workload issues for all education staff.

"This survey shows that, sadly, support staff feel over-utilised and undervalued.

"It is driving experienced and valuable staff from the profession," said Dr Bousted.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "We trust heads, governors and academy trusts to plan their staffing.

"Support staff are best used when they add value to what teachers do, not when they replace them."

The spokeswoman said the government was already working with the profession to tackle the root causes of unnecessary workload.

"More people are entering the teaching profession than leaving it and more teachers are in our classrooms than ever before," she added.

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