It takes a whole team to make a school a safe and happy place for children to learn. But this year has been unlike any other.
The pandemic is far from over, but the response of education staff has been phenomenal. Across the South East thousands of school support staff go the extra mile every single day to look after children in their care.
We should all be grateful for the exceptional contribution of these workers. They’re so often the unsung heroes of our local schools and positively impact the education of our children.
Every year we applaud these Stars in Our Schools, with a day dedicated to raising awareness of their vital role in children’s education.
Our celebration day for 2020 is Friday 27 November. It will be different to normal and I’ll have less chance to meet these inspirational staff face-to-face.
But to all UNISON members, working in these most difficult times to support pupils’ learning and wellbeing, I want to say a big thank you. You are doing your school and your union proud.
Despite the challenges this year school support staff have done what they always do and rolled up their sleeves and pitched in wherever needed.
The first national lockdown saw UNISON members working to keep schools open – they delivered learning packs and cooked free school meals, they provided pastoral care by phone and keep classrooms clean and safe for vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers.
Now that schools are open to all pupils, they are still battling to keep up with demanding cleaning schedules, reassuring worried parents and supporting pupils to stay on track with their education.
Some of these wonderful staff – particularly school meals workers and cleaners – are now facing threats to their incomes and jobs through privatisation and existing contractors seeking to cut costs.
And while the government and the media has too often focused any praise and attention on teachers alone, UNISON is immensely proud to represent support staff who make up over half of the schools workforce. We will always stand up for them and support the wonderful work they do.
In good times and bad, UNISON members help children learn, keep them safe and healthy and make sure schools run smoothly. They are the cleaners, the caterers, the teaching assistants, the admin staff, the finance officers, the librarians, the ICT technicians, the parent support advisers, and literally hundreds of other job roles throughout primary, secondary and special schools all over the South East and beyond.