On Tuesday 21 November, MPs from across the political spectrum joined UNISON at a parliamentary event celebrating the work of school support staff.
The event was hosted in the run-up to the union’s annual celebration day, Stars in Our Schools, on Friday 24 November.
Stars in Our Schools highlights the vital role of support staff in helping children learn, keeping them safe and happy, and ensuring schools run smoothly. These are roles including caterers, cleaners, admin staff, finance officers, teaching assistants, librarians and technicians.
The drop-in event, hosted by Kim Johnson MP, gave politicians the opportunity to show their support for schools staff and hear about the problems they face.
UNISON members Sue Ryles (pictured above, left) and Claire Stanhope (pictured above, right) shared their experiences with MPs including John McDonnell (centre) and Paula Barker (pictured below). Sue is a teaching assistant in Great Yarmouth and Claire is a nursery nurse and schools convenor in Oxfordshire.
Claire said: “It was great to speak not only to my own MP, but to MPs from across the UK. We talked about the crisis with SEND schools, that there is a lack of places for the children that has a knock-on effect on SEND children being in mainstream school where, although the support staff do a wonderful job, they haven’t had adequate training.
“Mental health problems are on the rise in schools but the training for staff to help the children isn’t adequate. The schools budgets have been cut and it’s normally the support staff that are the ones that the schools cut first.
“I was happy to hear from some MPs that they would fight for more funding for school and support staff, and adequate training for staff to be able to support SEND children and children struggling with their mental health”
UNISON national officer Joanna Parry said: “Stars in Our Schools is about recognising and celebrating the huge contribution support staff make in schools and it was great that MPs were able to join us to mark the occasion.
“More importantly, it gave an opportunity for MPs to hear firsthand about the urgent issues that need addressing in schools. It is crucial that schools – and those who work in them – have the investment they desperately need”