Technician staff cuts put safety at risk in schools, and the problem’s growing

The findings are from a survey of 500 technicians – who support science, IT, design and technology teachers – and highlight the importance of these specialist roles, says UNISON. Their work involves preparing equipment and materials, as well as assisting in practical lessons.The survey found the gap left by skilled technicians is being filled by a combination of teachers (37%), teaching assistants (33%) and staff ranging from caretakers and sixth form students to, in one case, the headteacher’s PA.

The safety implications of untrained staff taking on technician duties raised concerns among just under a third (32%) of respondents. More than one in six (17%) were aware of pupils or staff being injured in lessons when non-technicians handled chemicals or specialist equipment. Just under half (47%) said the number of injuries was increasing.

UNISON head of education Jon Richards said: “Without highly skilled technicians, well-meaning but unskilled colleagues are being asked to step in, sometimes risking their own safety and that of pupils and colleagues.”