Under-staffing is forcing school support staff to take on jobs outside their job descriptions and is leaving pupils inadequately protected, UNISON has warned. The education union says school administrators, business managers and finance workers are regularly administering first aid, handing out medicines to pupils and conducting criminal record checks because of cuts in staff numbers.

The union’s survey of 1,400 school office employees reveals that administrative and finance staff carry out many duties that are crucial to the running of schools. These activities go way beyond the support role suggested by their job titles, and have a direct impact on the quality of learning and pupil safety, the union says.

The survey shows that office staff are key to keeping school children safe. UNISON warns Conservative plans to merge support staff or share them between schools could put children’s health and well-being at risk as staff are already overstretched, with excessive workloads their top concern (87 per cent).

UNISON head of education Jon Richards said: “These employees play a vital role keeping children safe, reassuring parents and ensuring the smooth and cost-effective running of schools. Without them, already overstretched teachers and teaching assistants could be pulled out of classrooms.”