Schools are using apprentices as “Cheap Labour” as education cuts bite

Shocking new analysis shows 75% of TA apprentices are paid just £3.50 an hour

GMB, the union for teaching assistants, has warned that apprentices are being used as ‘cheap labour’ and are vulnerable to exploitation as education cuts bite.

Analysis of 190 teaching assistant apprenticeship vacancies reveals that 75 per cent of roles are advertised on the legal minimum of £3.50 an hour.

The average wage offered across all vacancies was just £3.81.

Teaching assistants are being paid 43 per cent below the average hourly wage for Level 2 and Level 3 apprentices (the grading of most teaching assistant apprenticeships).

In 2016 the median rate for Level 2 and 3 apprenticeships was £6.70 an hour, according to the latest official figures.

The minimum £3.50 rate applies to apprentices under the age of 18 or those in the first year of their scheme – less than half the over-25 National Minimum Wage of £7.50 an hour.

GMB analysis found:

· One special school with just 200 pupils advertised NINE teaching assistant apprenticeship posts on £3.50 an hour.

· At least one school advertising a post on the lowest rate is part of a chain that has sought to cut support staff roles.

· Teaching assistant wages, terms and conditions in another school on the list are set by a local authority that has sought to cut support staff pay within the last year.

According to official estimates, 27 per cent of apprentices working in ‘children’s care’ are not even paid the apprenticeship minimum wage, and GMB has warned that pressure on support staff to work additional hours means that many will effectively be paid below £3.50 an hour.

Over four thousand teaching assistant posts have been lost in secondary schools since 2012.

Andy Prendergast, GMB Senior Organiser, said:​​”Apprenticeships can be a valuable route into the world of work, but too often they are used to exploit young people and provide cheap labour for employers.

“In many of these adverts it’s not even clear what training, if any, is actually provided – raising serious questions about these schemes are delivering what they promise.

“These shocking figures expose how weak the regulations governing apprenticeships really are.

“£3.50 an hour is a miserly reward for an important job, and the pressure on school support staff to work long and unsociable hours leaves young people vulnerable to exploitation.

“Teaching assistants are under real threat as the education funding crisis deepens.

“GMB’s members are suffering from being at risk of redundancy and having their hours reduced, and there are real fears that apprentices will be left to fulfil tasks that should be carried out by experienced professionals.

“Our education system desperately needs cash to avoid a looming catastrophe – and propping our schools up with low paid apprentices is not the answer.”


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