What do PSAs stand for?
Pupil Support Assistants (PSA) are vital to the education and care of school pupils, yet the job is poorly paid, under appreciated, dangerous and without career progression.
Unite are campaigning to change this as we fight for PSA:
- fair pay that recognises the challenging nature of the role and the skills requireed
- safety to ensure PSAs are protected and can thrive at work without fear of injury or abuse
- advancement to provide career pathways to dedicated PSAs, that allow workers to progress in their career and develop their skills in supporting education in schools.
PSAs in mainsteam schools are grade three—£21,697 to £21,979 (£11.70 to £11.55 per hour) and special schools are grade four—£22,185 to £24,590 (£11.81 to £13.09 per hour). The low salary is causing a crisis of recruitment and retention—the Council is struggling to bring in and hold on to PSAs.
The salary must be enough to make becoming a PSA an attractive and realistic career. The work is rewarding, challenging, provides immense value to our communities and offers opportunities to specialise and develop, yet if workers are struggling to make ends meet, we will never attract the workforce we need to the profession.
We are calling on the Council to revise the job evaluation scheme—the system used to work out which grade a job is. We must consider the social value of a job and the broad range of skills used by the Council workforce.
Female dominated roles, such as PSAs, are not appropriately evaluated by the current system, which ignores the breadth of caring and interpersonal skills required for intensely person-focused jobs. By redressing pay injustice with PSAs, the Council can make meaningful steps to close the gender pay gap.
The number one cause of injury to workers in the Council is assault by a pupil. These cases are increasing.
Of 2,228 injuries across the council workforce in 2022, 1,813 (82%) were in Education and Children’s Services.
In October to December 2022 alone, there were 558 injuries in Education and Children’s Service—440 injuries were due to assaults in schools. These are only the reported cases—we know there is a worrying culture of under reporting abuse and assault of school workers.
Workplace injuries result in absence, which increases the workload of PSAs, who are already working intensely as a result of over a decade of cuts. This creates further absence due to stress, and further difficulties managing classes and increasing risk to staff safety by, for example, increasing the amount of lone working and manual handling.
We need to see a strong health and safety culture in our schools, with
- clear procedures for reporting and investigating incidents and injuries
- consultation with health and safety reps
- workers’ voices instructing risk assessments and working practices.
No workers should go to work fearing that they will be assaulted or abused.
We are working with our sister trade unions to address violence in schools. Read about the EIS’ work on violence in schools.
We will soon launch a survey on find out about the experiences of non-teaching school staff with violence in schools.
There is no career progression for PSAs, despite the job offering many avenues to specialise in and there being huge benefits to schools and pupils of having highly skilled PSAs. This is a blocker to recruitment and retention, as becoming a PSA is not seen as a career. This must change.
PSAs acquire specialist skills in
- dealing with challenging behaviour
- facilitating learning and improving pupil attainment
- working with pupils with special needs
- supporting the welfare of pupils and understanding how their lives at home impact upon learning.
These could become potential routes for career development.
We are calling for career pathways for PSAs that allow them to develop in their practice, and reward them appropriately for doing so.
The ideas above are starting points—we are keen to hear from more PSAs to refine these demands.
To achieve our demands, we need a mass campaign of PSAs. To find out how you can get involved please contact your branch officials: