Commenting on the education white paper published today (Monday), UNISON head of education Mike Short said:

“School catch-up plans will fail if the concerns of teaching assistants and other support staff aren’t urgently addressed.

“They’re a key element in tackling the education backlog for every school. But without a clear plan to recruit and hold on to them, out-of-touch ministers are hobbling the chances of millions of pupils in need.

“Schools can’t function without the dedication of support staff  –  like teaching assistants, caretakers and cleaners. Often the lowest paid staff members, many put their lives at risk to continue going into schools during the pandemic, ensuring vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers could carry on learning.

“By not mentioning them, ministers have shown that helping schools and pupils bounce back as quickly as possible is not their priority. Instead they’re wasting vital time and energy pushing through unnecessary programmes to create more academies.

“For the white paper not to recognise the pivotal role support staff play in the catch-up programme – or tackle their low pay as living costs soar – beggars belief.