22 April 2021
A disastrous portrait of the daily lives of school support staff
The Fédération du personnel de soutien scolaire (FPSS-CSQ) is disclosing the catastrophic results of the After a Year of Pandemic survey they conducted among 1,402 respondents, all members of the federation.
“When we look at these results, we have to face facts: the persisting health crisis has had major negative effects on school support staff. We have been on the frontlines since the pandemic began and we are the ones who have had to find solutions to most of the problems that arise on the ground related to health measures, or quite simply having to apply these measures,” says FPSS-CSQ President Éric Pronovost.
Impatience, Rudeness and Violence
One in two respondents have felt an increase in impatience (50.2%) and rudeness (47.2%) towards them, and one in four respondents noted an increase in violence (26.8%).
When we analyze these three factors (impatience, rudeness or violence), nearly three in five respondents (59.7%) note that the behaviors come from children. More than half (52.1%) say they come from work colleagues, indicating a rise in workplace tensions. And almost half (50.1%) are feeling an increase from parents and superiors (25.8%).
“We are hearing more and more horror stories. There are, for example, secretaries in tears because parents who have come to pick up their symptomatic children hurl even more insults at them. I hear about daycare educators who are verbally and even physically abused, to a point where they fear for their safety. The situation is so tense that relations are even deteriorating between close colleagues. There is an urgent need to act,” laments Pronovost.
Several factors could explain the difficult conditions in which school support staff are having to work. The burden of increased tasks is one of them.
Almost nine in ten respondents (86%) have experienced a significant (52%) or moderate (34%) increase in their tasks. Barely one in ten (11%) say they are unchanged
The job categories that seem to have experienced the biggest increases are daycare technicians (73%), principal class daycare educators (68.8%), daycare educators (68.6%), school or service center secretaries (60%), handicapped student attendants (44.7%), special education technicians (43.3%), student supervisors (41.7%), secretaries (35.9%) and class I office agents (25.6%).
A Worrisome Increase in Burnout
It is no surprise that the results of this survey indicate that nearly four in five respondents (79.2%) are feeling an increase in professional burnout. This worrisome data also corresponds with what we are hearing in workplace testimonials.
On the other hand, the vast majority of the 455 comments we received mention serious fatigue.
We received calls for help like these: “out of breath,” “when will things get back to normal?” “It’s exhausting and unnerving,” “completely exhausted,” “I like what I do, but I have no more energy,” “We are understaffed.”
“This is an emergency! The government must intervene without delay if it does not want the entire Quebec education system as we know it to collapse after the pandemic. Not only do we need better working conditions to recruit and retain more staff, we also need to deal with preexisting issues,” says Éric Pronovost.
A Shocking Lack of Staff = Consequences for Students
More than eight in ten respondents (81.1%) state that there is a major shortage (39.6%) or slight shortage (41.5%) of staff.
“The staff shortage obviously has repercussions on several levels, starting with existing staff who are forced to work harder to meet the needs. But it is unrealistic to think that all employees can do this. And the first to suffer from the consequences of the lack of school support staff are the children.”
The people who most notice the shortage of school support staff work primarily in direct services to students: principal class educators (56.3%), daycare educators (46.7%), special education technicians (46.5%), daycare technicians (42.6%), handicapped student attendants (38.3%) and school or center secretaries (38.3%).
Conducting the Survey
This survey was conducted by the Fédération du personnel de soutien scolaire (FPPS-CSQ) from March 26 to April 11, 2021, using a digital survey shared by the FPSS-CSQ and its affiliated unions. 1,402 people responded with a confidence level of 95% and a margin of error of 3%.