News School support staff

Education staff members’ briefing – Branch calls on council to value school support staff

Inez Kirk
Inez Kirk

The branch has called on all school staff members to let us know if their school expects them to work longer in order to get a tea and coffee’ break so that this can be addressed.

Branch secretary, Inez Kirk and assistant secretary Ann Gray, have issued a briefing for education staff members pledging to address this massive inequality with the council, and ensure education staff are valued and treated equally.

The briefing says:

“First of all I want to thank every single one of you for the work you are doing to ensure the young people of Aberdeenshire receive a quality education. You are essential to the working of schools and without you quality education could not happen. Without clean schools, safe schools and well organised schools, the young people of Aberdeenshire would be harmed.

“The staff that provide hands on care and support to the young people in schools are as valuable as any other employee, without you Teachers couldn’t teach and young people could not achieve.

Ann Gray
Ann Gray

“As valuable members of the workforce you should be treated like every other member of staff, whether working in an office like Woodhill House or in a school, you should be equally valued and treated the same. With your work and welfare valued equally.

“It appears that in an increasing number of schools that our staff, PSA’s are being denied a ‘Tea/Coffee’ break during the day, either that or told that the working day will be increased to accommodate a break.

“If our term time staff are required to work an extra 15 minutes a day that is over 2 weeks extra work per year for nothing, free of charge to the council.

“Every other employee and every service incorporates a short break for staff during their normal working hours, no other group of workers is expected to work longer to get a ‘Tea/Coffee’ break.

“Anyone who has been to any office in Aberdeenshire council will see staff having a break during their work hours, even in school, groups of staff will get a break during their work hours. Why is it that PSA’s are being selected to work longer to have the privilege of a break.

“Good practice and looking after the welfare of staff, particularly during these difficult and trying times, is common sense and shows the welfare of staff is paramount. I know time is pressured but that is no excuse to deny staff the basic of human decency. When others are still managing to get their breaks.

“Many Schools are quoting that there is no entitlement to a break, only the half hour minimum break where you are not paid, where you are free to do what you want and cannot be called on to help out, that again is unpaid time.

“A Tea/Coffee break is just that a wee break to gather yourself, make yourself comfortable, but if you are needed you can be called to help out. It is custom and practice across all workplaces and school staff should be treated the same.

“When the role of PSA was created, it was agreed between the joint trade unions and Maria Walker and Edwin Duncan, that staff would be entitled to take a wee break, during their working hours, but if that break was missed for any reason, you could not clam that time back. So it was a wee paid break to maintain your health and well being, like every other worker in Aberdeenshire Council.

“I am aware that some schools are continuing to attempt to deny breaks for staff unless the working day is increased, this is wrong and where we know of this we are challenging.

“I am aware of a briefing to Head Teachers from the council, to say this, but I fear the wording of this briefing is quite unclear and has led to many more schools attempting to increase the day to accommodate a break.

“I am working with the council on this.

“We need to stop this now, your time is precious and it is stressful enough providing educational support to the young people of Aberdeenshire during a global pandemic, without making you work longer for free.

“It is important you let us know so that we can address this massive inequality.

“It is time you were valued as the essential staff that you are.

“Without our staff schools could not educate the young people.”

Inez Kirk
Ann Gray