GMB, the union for school support staff, exposes shocking cost and use of agency staff in schools.
GMB London has discovered that many schools, throughout London and the Home Counties, are spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on agency support staff.
GMB London asked schools, in Freedom of Information requests, how much they had spent on agency support staff since 2017 and how much they are planning to spend in the forthcoming year. The answer was that schools across London are paying agencies millions of pounds every year to supply support staff in schools and that expenditure for agency staff is part of the budget for many schools demonstrating that not only is such practice clearly accepted but also that it is pre-planned.
Keith Williams, Senior Organiser, says:
“GMB London is campaigning for a fair and decent pay rise for undervalued and unappreciated support staff in schools who, since 2010, have suffered a 22% real terms pay cut because of austerity.
“GMB London questions, therefore, how schools can justify the use of agency staff, which means inflated hourly rates and costs and a fat profit for private companies at the taxpayers’ expense.
“If schools can set aside tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds in their budgets to pay agencies why can they not employ their own staff? Workers deserve secure jobs with decent pay and conditions and GMB London is against public money being used to increase profits in the private sector.”
The evidence obtained by GMB London shows a trend of schools relying on agencies to provide one-to-one support for SEND children with complex needs, as well as children with Educational Health Care Plans. In one example, a school is currently using 18 agency support staff and has spent £770,000 in the past two years on Agency Staff. This figure, for just one school, will exceed £1 million by 2020 if the allocated budget is spent.
Lisa Bangs, Regional Organiser, says:
“Questions need to be asked as to whether the needs of our most vulnerable children would be better met by schools employing dedicated and regular support staff rather than relying on potentially high turnover agency staff.
“School support staff have been under immense pressure because of cuts to schools and rather than recognising and rewarding this schools are spending vast sums on external agency staff.
“This long term reliance on agency staff at such a high cost needs to change.”
GMB London is calling on schools to directly recruit permanent support staff and invest in and reward the dedicated and loyal staff they already have, which can only be of benefit to our children and education services. It is unacceptable that private companies are increasing their profits with the money that should be being spent on our childrens’ education.
GMB London welcomes the transparency many schools have shown in responding to the Freedom of Information requests and questions what the schools who failed to respond have to hide.
Posted: 5th February 2020