Aberdeenshire UNISON


Teaching support staff to challenge their pay and status

Classroom assistants and SFL auxiliaries from across Aberdeenshire came along to two well-attended meetings to hear from Laura Hutchison of the Equal Opportunities Commission. Laura carried out the formal investigation into the role and status of classroom assistants in Scottish schools, Valuable Assets, which found that classroom assistants and SFL auxiliaries across Scotland are underpaid and undervalued for the work they do. UNISON is calling for Local Authorities to remedy this situation.

Branch teaching support staff members told Laura that the findings reflected their own experiences. They spoke of the wide range of very responsible tasks they undertake within schools to support the learning of children with support needs.

"The teachers we work with recognise and value the work that we do but when they find out how little we get paid they are shocked," said one classroom assistant. Others added that most people don't know that they only get paid for term time working and not over the holidays. "They think we get good, long paid holidays like the teaching staff," they added, "but that's just not true."

Many classroom assistants will be appealing their mapping through single status and the branch will be supporting those who are UNISON members. An independent assessment of the Job Evaluation Scheme used by the council has found that the guidance does have the potential to lead to classroom assistant type posts being evaluated at a lower level than the role tasks merit, and there is a lot of evidence in the Valuable Assets Report to challenge the pay and grading of these staff under single status.

The meetings also uncovered a range of other concerns from teaching support members. Many are on long-term temporary contracts; many are being asked to undertake tasks such as first aid without the necessary training; most feel that there is a need for a proper career structure with consistent access to training and development opportunities, properly recognised and supported.

Members were also given information about the Pathways Course, a UNISON funded training course that will equip members to pursue equal pay and other service condition issues.

Betty Lyon, branch development officer told the meeting that this was a critical time for low paid women workers such as classroom assistants. “This is your opportunity to challenge the status of teaching support staff and to get better recognition of all the really important work you do” she said, urging teaching support members to sign up for the Pathways course and more actively pursue equal pay and status issues.

The meetings were held in the Kintore Arms, Inverurie on 29th August and at the Station Hotel, Fraserburgh on 30th August.

To find out more visit www.eoc.org.uk/valuableassets