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More than a third of UK school support staff helping pupils pay for food – survey | Education

A union survey found school support staff dipping into their own pockets to help pay for food, stationery and uniforms for pupils in need, while skipping meals and taking multiple jobs to pay their bills.

The Unison survey revealed that teaching assistants (TAs), catering and cleaning workers, librarians and sports coaches, who are among the lowest paid workers in the sector, are struggling to pay their bills, but are still coming forward to support pupils.

Almost 6,700 respondents (98%) to the UK-wide survey said they worried their salary would not cover the rising cost of living, but more than a third (35%) said they helped pay for food or takeaway lunches for pupils.

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More than one in five (23%) used their own money to pay for books, pens and pencils for their students, while 30% helped struggling families afford school uniforms.

One in eight school support staff has had to use food banks in the past year and may need to refer to them again, or rely on family for help. More than a quarter took second or third jobs to make ends meet—including working in security, supermarkets, delivery driving, hospitality, beauty, education, cleaning, and care.

About half said they actively seek better-paying work elsewhere — often in retail — because they can’t cover their current salary, Unison said. Job sites are currently advertising TA jobs in the range of £80-£100 per day in London.

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More than two in five of those surveyed had borrowed money in the past year to help with family finances. Others tried to cut bills by buying extra blankets (55%), heating an individual room (31%), or not using heating at all despite being needed for health reasons (30%). Meanwhile, 8% were using public spaces to heat and avoid using their own heating.

The survey highlights a number of cases, including that of Jeff (not his real name), who has supported children with special educational needs and worked in schools for more than 20 years.

He said, “I work two jobs to make ends meet and get one day off a month. I can’t put the heating down. Instead I’ve bought an electric blanket which costs me a penny an hour to keep me warm. There’s no incentive to do this job apart from the love of education and pupils.”

Sue (again, her real name) has been a teaching assistant for 10 years and is considering leaving the sector. “I have a three-year-old and I’m struggling to pay for childcare. We live with my parents because we’re trying to buy a house, but our mortgage offer was pulled because we couldn’t afford the higher payments. I’m considering taking another job or quitting.” completely “.

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Mike Short, Unison’s Head of Education, said: “Although education workers are going through difficult times, they are still helping less fortunate pupils and their families. This speaks volumes about their generosity and dedication, but this should never have happened. It should For the government to hang its head in shame.”

The survey was conducted from October 20 to November 1, with the majority of responses coming from staff working in primary schools (59%), followed by secondary schools (24%), private schools (11%) and nurseries (5%) and pupil referral units (1%).

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are extremely grateful for the work of all education support staff and understand the pressures many are facing at the moment due to the challenges of recession and high inflation.

While decisions about pay are for individual schools, the core schools budget will be boosted by £2bn each of the next two years, thanks to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has already highlighted that the rise will allow school spending to return to at least 2010 levels in real terms – the highest spending year in history – which in real terms means we will be putting more into schools than ever before.”

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