About a quarter of school technicians have left their posts in the past year without being replaced, a new survey suggests.

According to the UNISON union, the survey of 500 technicians shows that a third (32%) think that staff cuts are putting pupil safety at risk.

Analysis of the National Statistics School Workforce in England shows that the number of technicians in secondary schools has been cut by 16.8% since 2013, with the reduction for primary schools being 17%.

UNISON’s survey found that when skilled technicians leave schools, their roles are being filled by a combination of teachers (37%), teaching assistants (33%) and other staff (including caretakers and sixth form students).

Injuries to pupils or staff during lessons when non-technicians were handling chemicals or specialist equipment were noted by 17% of survey respondents.

Those injuries ranged, the union notes, from a member of staff being hospitalised after incorrectly using hydrogen peroxide, to pupils’ blazers being set alight after a supply teacher sat them too close to an experiment.

Speaking for UNISON, Jon Richards said that, 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”.

On the positive side, at least those lessons took place – as 40% of respondents told UNISON that the number of practical experiments is falling, with demonstrations, group work and YouTube tutorials replacing one-to-one practical sessions.

With the vast majority of technicians (83%) surveyed reporting being happy in their jobs, Mr Richards noted that it is the combination of their passion and their high degree of skill that makes them a valuable part of the school team – and one worth protecting.

The results of the UNISON survey of school technicians can be found at https://www.unison.org.uk/content/uploads/2019/11/Stars-report-.pdf.

Last reviewed 19 December 2019