One of the best things about being an MP is having the opportunity to visit local schools to speak to the children and young people, their teachers and their fantastic support staff team. As Labour’s Shadow Schools Minister I now get to do this across England too.
This year I will continue the tradition of joining UNISON to take part in their ‘Stars in Our Schools’ celebration with a visit to Grange First School in Newcastle, alongside UNISON Northern’s Regional Convenor, Nicky Ramanandi.
Wherever it is celebrated, it is a really special annual event, giving the opportunity to recognise the vital work undertaken by school support staff, too often the unsung heroes of a school community.
Whether caterers, administrators, finance officers, teaching assistants, librarians, ICT technicians or security, they are the ‘Stars in Our Schools’ who ensure that schools are warm and safe and the children are kept fed, healthy and ready to learn.
I’m passionate about ensuring that every child gets the best start in life. That means ensuring we have an army of vital support staff keeping our schools going.
Sadly there are too many at the moment who, despite loving their job, the children they work with and being utterly dedicated to their school community, are struggling with the cost of living crisis and making ends meet. Too many are leaving the job they love as they get a better deal working elsewhere.
Whilst ‘Stars in Our Schools’ is a fantastic celebration, Labour wants to ensure that the essential role that our support staff play is properly recognised all year round. That’s why we’ve committed to reintroducing a School Support Staff Negotiating Body, something that UNISON campaigned for too.
This would be a positive forum, where the voices of support staff and their unions are heard, and where together we can address the issues that many are currently facing. It would look at terms and conditions, including annual leave and working days during the school year, to bring order and fairness to the system.
‘Stars in Our Schools’ is a brilliant opportunity to thank support staff for their hard work and dedication. I’m delighted to be able to celebrate it, and look forward to when Labour in Government can ensure the vital work that school support staff do is recognised throughout the year too.
MP for Newcastle North
Labour’s Shadow Schools Minister