Supporting the Education Team
The National Education Debate
The UNISON Scotland Initial Response
- UNISON Scotland welcomes the opportunity to be involved
in the National Debate on Education
- We represent thousands of workers who make up the majority
of support staff employed in Scottish schools.
- Support staff are part of the whole Education Team but do
not believe they are as valued or recognised as much as their
- Support staff do not see their value recognised in either
status terms or in the salary and conditions given to them.
- Support staff are not afforded equality of access to training
and professional development.
- They are concerned at the effects the McCrone Report will
have on them, as work previously carried out by teachers is
cascaded down to them.
- UNISON believes that children should be taught respect for
themselves and tolerance for others.
- There is no place in our schools for racism or any other
form of discrimination.
- UNISON Scotland is conducting several campaigns at present
which affect our schools and the support staff who work in
them. These include:
- Free School Meals for all school children
- Opposition to PPP/PFI in our schools
- Better pay, career structure and status for Nursery Nurses
- Analysis of the pay and conditions of Classroom Assistants
- Fair treatment for those classed as Term Time Workers
Feedback was obtained by organising focus groups,
meetings and telephone questionnaires
The people we consulted were UNISON members who
represent support staff working in Scottish Education.
Nursery Nurses Janitors
Classroom Assistants Careers Staff
Admin & Clerical Staff School Librarians
Technicians School Meals Staff
Special Needs Staff Cleaners
School Auxiliaries Care Staff
Outdoor Education Workers School Nurses
Educational Psychologists Community Education
Education Department Staff Maintenance &
UNISON Scotland represents thousands of support
workers in schools across Scotland. The work that cleaners, janitorial
staff , maintenance and school meals staff do ensures that our
schools are clean and in good order and that our children are
fed during the day. School secretaries, administrative and clerical
staff ensure that schools are administrated and run efficiently.
Nursery nurses directly teach pre-school children and school auxiliaries,
special needs staff, care workers, educational psychologists assist
children with special needs. Classroom assistants help primary
school children with their studies and technicians, school librarians,
outdoor recreational workers help secondary school children to
carry out their studies and expand their intellectual and physical
horizons. Administrative staff working in education head offices
are involved in allocating budgets, they are responsible for allocating
clothing grants, they deal with personnel matters, such as arranging
supply staff and they are involved in planning education structures,
Most of these staff are involved in all aspects
of the school life and form a large part of the "Education
Team". However, in many respects they feel the contribution
they make to children's education is not recognised either
in status or often in monetary rewards. For example, in the pack
and video which introduced the National Debate on Education, support
staff were not mentioned at all. They feel their professionalism
and expertise is not taken into account when, for example, new
systems are being introduced. Teachers are consulted as of right,
but support staff do not seem to be. Support staff feel they have
a valuable contribution to make in planning the direction in which
education is going and would welcome the opportunity to be consulted.
We are also aware of the effects some of the proposals
contained in the McCrone report will have on support staff. We
of course welcome the prospect of additional staff such as bursars,
administrative and ICT support over the next few years. Nevertheless
we are concerned that the
aim of reducing the work teachers do that is "not
directly related to their key role in teaching and learning"
will mean additional tasks being cascaded down to current support
staff without necessarily any increase in income. We welcome the
proposed audit of the number of additional support staff required
which is to be completed by March 2004. We understand the need
for teachers' skills and experience to be deployed in the
most effective way but would wish the skills and expertise of
support staff to be equally valued and effectively deployed.
All of the staff we consulted said that they were
particularly concerned that they are not afforded the same training
opportunities as those given to teaching staff and they are not
therefore able to undertake professional development. Lack of
resources appears to be the main reason for this, which does not
enable cover to be provided for them to receive on the job training.
Teachers have in-service days but not support staff. The McCrone
report highlighted the issue of professional development for teachers.
We would wish the same standards to apply to support staff.
UNISON Scotland is involved in several initiatives
around the Education Service at present.
- The campaign for Free School Meals aims to provide a free
nutritious meal for all pupils in local authority schools
in Scotland. We believe this would assist in tackling poverty
and social exclusion; address poor nutrition standards in
Scotland, which cause health problems for children and in
la ter life; provides sustenance that aids learning, attendance
and behaviour. The introduction of a free school meal on a
daily basis would demonstrate a caring Scotland, nurturing
its young people and providing for the future health and wellbeing
of our nation. (Full response can be found on www.unison-scotland.org.uk/response/schoolmeals.html
- UNISON Scotland is also opposed to the use of PFI for provision
of our schools. We are committed to publicly delivered public
services that meet the needs of Scotland's people, which
includes a publicly delivered education system for all. Last
month the Accounts Commission's report into current PFI
schools schemes endorsed much of what UNISON has being saying
about PFIs and value for money. We have a range of objections
to PFI based on our members' experiences. We believe
it does not provide value for money, lacks transparency, creates
a two-tier workforce, and is failing to deliver. It is clear
that PFI and PPPs do not benefit the pupils, teachers, janitors
and cleaners in our schools. Rather it is big business
the contractors, lawyers and bankers who are winning
with PFI. (See previous briefings at:
- We are also involved in a major campaign to improve the
status and the pay and conditions of our Nursery Nurses, for
which a petition was presented to the Scottish Parliament
in June 2002. We believe that nursery education is vital to
children's later development as it allows them to interact
with their peers, explore skills through play, and can help
them in all aspects of their development in a relaxed, pressure-free
- The next group of workers we are to target is Classroom
Assistants, following the launch of an initiative in England
and Wales and the proposed introduction later this year, of
new SVQs for this group of staff.
- For the last few years, UNISON has been campaigning for
improved conditions for support staff who receive no income
during school holidays, or receive lower wages than they merit,
to annualise out their pay over 52 weeks, to compensate for
the holidays. Local authorities in Scotland have a variety
of solutions to the problem of term time workers. We would
wish the issue addressed on a Scottish-wide basis. The problem
is compounded for many workers who do not receive wages, but
who are then denied Job Seekers Allowance. UNISON attempted
to seek redress by mounting a legal challenge but this was
Not all of the issues we wish to raise fit easily
into the questions posed in the feedback form, nevertheless, we
have tried to answer as many of these in the manner requested.
Question 1. What are the best things about school
education in Scotland?
The Scottish Executive provides a free, fully comprehensive
education system for all children in Scotland. Every child is
guaranteed a place in a school and free education up to the age
of 18 if they and their parents desire, regardless of their income
Whilst there has a greater emphasis on testing children
in our schools over the last 20 years, Scotland has not been as
rigid or prescriptive as the system in England and Wales.
Question 2. What should be improved about the
education system in Scotland?
Our members identified in particular gaps in the
transition between the three school phases nursery, primary
and secondary. This causes difficulty firstly in the move from
nursery to primary schools. Nursery staff are required to assess
pupils using a 72 point system, but they are not convinced that
any cognisance is taken of these assessments once the child enters
The 5 14 curriculum crosses primary and secondary
schools and difficulties are perceived in straddling these two
systems. Because of the work done in primary schools some students
are well ahead of the assessed stage when they enter secondary
school and this can lead to a marked fall in performance in Secondary
1 and more particularly, Secondary 2.
UNISON believes that equality of opportunity should
be emphasised more in the education system and that this should
be delivered in fully comprehensive schools. We believe that there
is no room in our schools for sexual, gender-based or racial discrimination.
Schools should encourage an acceptance of diversity and expose
children to a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures.
We believe that children should receive greater
experience of multiculturalism in their education to enable them
to reach a high level of understanding and tolerance of those
from different cultures.
UNISON believes that ethnic and gender monitoring
should be conducted to ensure that equality of opportunity really
is provided in our education system. This, however must be carried
out in a sensitive and consensual basis involving pupils, parents
and staff to ensure that no misunderstandings can occur about
the purpose of such monitoring.
Question 3. What should children learn?
As well as the obvious basics of being able to read,
write, understand numbers and arithmetic, our members felt that
children should be taught to respect themselves and others.
They should be taught how to function in a multi-cultural
society, being tolerant and valuing other cultures. There is no
place in our schools for racist attitudes and all attempts must
be made to eradicate these wherever they exist.
It is important that children are given support
to enable them to emerge from school with social skills, and a
knowledge of how to become emotionally mature and physically healthy
adults, as well as with their intellectual abilities tested and
perfected to the best of their abilities.
Question 4. Should all children be taught the
same things or should different children focus on different things?
It is important that children are taught at the
correct stages for them, and that they are not pushed into tasks
that are inappropriate or too advanced for them. The achievements
of, say, special needs children should be recognised as important
in themselves, and not measured in terms of the normal curriculum.
Teachers, appropriate support staff and parents should all be
involved in setting the relevant targets for individual children.
Question 5. What else should young people have
when they leave school, apart from their exam results?
Children should leave school with a greater knowledge
of the world of work than they currently receive in the education
system. Firstly, more work experience is considered vital to teach
pupils what work itself is like and how to work in team situations
with their fellow workers. They should also be given knowledge
of how trade unions work and how they can be supported in their
working life by trade unions. Alongside this would come a greater
knowledge of their rights at work under such legislation as the
Health & Safety at Work Act, sex discrimination and equal
UNISON Scotland outlined its views on the above
in a response to the Enterprise & Lifelong Learning Department's
consultation on "The Review of Education for Work and Enterprise".
(Full response available: http://www.unisonscotland.org.uk/response/enterprise.html
How should children learn?
Question 6. How can we get children more interested
Our members were of the view that there was too
much testing carried out in Scottish Education although it was
accepted that the level of testing in Scottish schools was not
as rigid as that in England and Wales. Nevertheless, it was believed
that this has meant too much pressure on academic achievement
which in turn has left less time to be spent on other pursuits
such as reading, use of libraries, internet use for general learning,
rather than purely for academic attainment.
Our groups also considered other forms of learning,
such as distance and Internet use, but did not believe that the
correct social and emotional development would be gained by these
methods which were felt to be isolationist.
Question 7. How can the school system help each
child develop to its full potential? How can we most effectively
meet the needs of those requiring additional support and those
who do not?
UNISON Scotland believes firmly that pre-school
education is crucial to develop our children to their full potential.
Because of the decrease in family sizes, it is important that
children learn to interact with their peer group and pre-school
education plays a key role in this aspect of development. Pre
school education is often the first place that any physical or
learning difficulties are diagnosed, enabling any necessary treatment
to be started as early as possible. It also gives children the
opportunity to explore early maths, reading and writing skills
in a less pressurised environment. It aids development of physical,
cognitive, social, emotional and language skills which are essential
for later learning throughout the school life.
The use of support staff such as classroom assistants,
technicians, outdoor recreational staff all have a part to play
in children's continuing development and professional development
of these staff must be provided in order that the assistance they
give children is of the highest quality.
As outlined above, the needs of all children must
be taken into account on an individual basis, by ensuring that
all education is child centred. This is especially necessary for
children with special needs who must be given education which
is appropriate for their stages of development.
We believe that measures to aid the health and well
being of our children are important to ensuring that they can
have opportunities to learn to the best of their abilities. Initiatives
to improve children's diet, for example, the Glasgow proposals
to provide a free, healthy breakfast for each child are welcomed,
but we believe that the introduction of a free school meal to
all pupils across Scotland would be even more beneficial.
We also believe that our children would benefit
from more physical activity in their school day. Apart from more
PE lessons in schools we would like to see greater use of the
outdoor recreational centres. As well as being in the outdoors,
experiencing a range of activities, such as abseiling, canoeing,
etc. teach children valuable skills such as team working, map
reading, orienteering, etc.
Who can help children learn?
Question 8. Who ought to be involved in helping
children to learn in future? What skills will these people need?
As stated above, UNISON Scotland believes that the
whole Education team is involved in children's education.
Whilst accepting that teachers provide formal academic lessons,
there are many ways in which children are taught to become citizens
of our country and support staff are involved in most of these.
Children are helped with their academic work and
their socialisation processes in various ways by many people during
their school life. These include nursery nurses from their pre-school
years; staff they meet at primary schools: classroom assistants,
admin staff, janitors and cleaners, school nurses, school auxiliaries
added to at secondary school by technicians, librarians and careers
We have stressed the importance of the whole education
team throughout our response and would reiterate that all of these
people with their different skills come into daily contact with
children during their time at school. The tasks that are carried
out are all interdependent on the other. One group of staff is
not more important than the other they all perform tasks
that are necessary to make education a rounded experience for
all of our children. We believe support staff should be equally
valued and their contribution to education recognised.
To support them adequate training and professional
development must be made available and learning opportunities
such as Return to Learn and other Lifelong Learning initiatives
should be offered.
We are concerned that the current practice of refurbishing
and rebuilding schools using PPP or PFI schemes will break up
the education team. In many cases support staff such as janitors,
maintenance staff and cleaners have been transferred to the private
sector with the fabric of the building, leading to a two-tier
workforce employed by a different employer on different terms
When should children learn?
Question 10. At what age should children start
We feel that children in Scotland should start school
a year later than they do at present, i.e. at 6 years. We would
also want two years pre-school education guaranteed for each child
prior to them reaching 6.
We would wish the leaving age to remain at 16. Nevertheless
we feel that as many children as possible should be encouraged
to leave at 17 or 18.
Question 11. Are the current holidays a good
arrangement and should they be standardised across Scotland?
As stated in the Introduction, many support staff
working in schools are considered to be Term Time Workers and
either receive no wages during school holidays, or have their
wage rate reduced to annualise their pay over 52 weeks, so that
they receive a wage during the holiday period.
In addition, we remain committed to fight for the
application of Job Seekers Allowance or a similar benefit to Term
Question 12. How many hours a day should children
spend at school and at what times?
Our members had no comments on this question
Where should Children learn?
Question 13. How should schools of the future
UNISON is committed to fully comprehensive schools
for the delivery of education in Scotland which we believe is
the best way of ensuring equal treatment for every child, irrespective
The education of our children is crucial to Scotland's
future, and we believe that the continued use of PFI and PPP puts
that future in jeopardy. Last year a UNISON commissioned MORI
poll revealed that 91% of Scotland's people did not want
their public services delivered by private firms, making it clear
that Scotland believes in public services, believing that the
privatisation of Scotland's public services has led to poorer
services: less accountable services, less responsive services
and poorer value for money.
As noted above, the Accounts Commission last month
confirmed many of UNISON's fears over PFI, that it is not
value for money, and that local authorities should have alternative
methods of finance available.
We are concerned that PFI is failing to deliver
for Scotland's schools. For example, the Glasgow schools
PFI resulted in the loss of 6 swimming pools, smaller and fewer
classrooms, science lab benches facing the walls instead of facing
teachers, fewer games halls, and faulty fire alarms, and in East
Renfrewshire the council DLO had to help out when a roof blew
off a school, leaving the contractor Jarvis in dispute with the
council over the design of the school and the support provided
during the crisis.
UNISON's other main concern with PFI however,
focuses on employment issues. PFI actively divides the workforce
creating a two-tier system between teaching staff and ancillary
staff who remain in the public sector, and janitorial, catering
and cleaning staff who are often given no option but to transfer
to the private contractor. The Education Team is effectively broken
up by this method, as the staff are employed by different employers,
on different rates of pay and terms and conditions. As has been
seen in the National Health Service, a marked deterioration in
standards of service can result from this, due to private contractors
cutting the number of staff and reducing their terms and conditions
in their efforts to create profits for shareholders.
UNISON would prefer alternative methods of funding
public services to PFI to be introduced for our schools. UNISON
is clear that the best way of funding new schools is through the
conventional borrowing route. Governments and local councils can
get much better deals when borrowing money than private companies.
Local authorities unlike private companies - are unlikely
to go bust and are therefore a much safer bet for banks lending
the cash. We have recently called on the Government to remove
the current borrowing constraints which are imposed on local authorities
are prevent them borrowing to fund capital investment.
Using the Team's expertise: an example
We have stressed throughout this response that support
staff need to be valued and for their professional expertise to
be utilised. We set out below one example of a procedure that
could have been improved which came from a School Librarian at
one of our focus groups.
He expressed his concern at the current situation
of lists of reading material for use with the Higher Still curriculum.
At present, there are no central approved reading lists established
for different subjects. Some authorities have come up with their
own, some have shared them with other authorities, in others,
individual teachers have been left to draw up their own lists.
If the professional knowledge of school librarians had been sought
at the planning stage for the new exam structure, a lot of time
and effort could have been saved by many people by the establishment
and circulation of approved reading lists.
This is just one example of good practice that can
be contributed by support staff if they are consulted properly
as part of the whole Education Team and their suggestions given
equal weight with those of other staff.
For Further Information Please Contact:
Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel 0141-332 0006 Fax 0141 342 2835