Wakefield school teaching assistants would ‘rather work for McDonald’s, Tesco and Amazon’ than in the classroom

Members of Wakefield Schools Forum spoke of their fears of a classroom staffing crisis in many of the district’s schools unless urgent action is taken.

A meeting heard some schools are struggling to recruit teaching assistants (TAs) and dining room staff as they opt instead to take jobs working for McDonald’s, Tesco and Amazon.

Finance officers also warned that up to 20 schools across the Wakefield district are likely to be facing a budget deficit by the end of the next financial year.

Margaret Isherwood, Wakefield Council’s Cabinet member for Children’s Services, said she would consider proposing a motion calling on the Government to address the growing problem.

The concerns were raised as members discussed school funding shortages and the cost of living crisis.

Sally Kincaid. National Education Union representative, said: “It is a massive crisis out there and it is going to get worse.

“It is easier to work at Tesco than be a TA. It is shocking what is going on. Absolutely shocking.”

Richard Grace, of Enhance Academy Trust, said: “Other departments need to realise as well.

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“We can’t bring people in. People would rather work at Tesco rather than have a chair thrown at them in the classroom.

“We are stuck between a rock and hard place.

“We are actually getting to the point where we are drowning because we haven’t got the staff and the capacity and that extra money coming in.”

Finance officer Andrew Lodge said nine schools in the district are expected to overspend their budget by the end of this financial year.

The figure is expected to rise to more than 20 by the next financial year.

Group finance manager Alison Lunn said teams would be working with some of the schools to look at “staff restructuring” and spending programmes.

Becky Cook, of Waterton Academy Trust, said: “We cannot compete at all with McDonalds, Amazon warehouses – all of those businesses around here – and offer anywhere near the pay for the jobs that they do.”

Forum member Barbara Hughes: “It isn’t just a problem in the next few months. This has got a long-term impact.

“The recruitment and retention is going to be impacted because people deviate away from this sector and it is going to need a big pull to get them back in again.”

Forum chair Denis Barry asked Coun Isherwood if she would consider raising the concerns with the local authority and MPs.

He said: “This is an appalling situation and its impact financially on different schools will be variable.

“This is direct material that you can take to council and take to the MPs

“The information that we have listened to needs to be moved on.”

Coun Isherwood said: “I have no problem with that at all. This is a serious situation.

“I was at a governors’ meeting yesterday and exactly this situation arose.

“They cannot get the TAs, they cannot get the dining room staff.

“Years ago, they were jobs that people were fighting for and now you can’t get them.

“At the end of the day, we have to provide a good education for all the children in the district.

“But we are being stymied because the money is not there and I’m happy to take that forward.”

“I’m going to look into raising it at council and perhaps put a motion forward to actually send something down to government outlining the problems.

“It won’t be just this district. It will be across the country.

“I’m sure there are problems all over that need to be addressed.”

Wakefield Express News