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Wrexham: Cost of living crisis sees school escorts leaving roles

THE COST of living crisis has seen school escorts walking away from the role, Wrexham Council officers have said.

School escorts are responsible for children often with additional support needs, from when they leave their parents or carers – either at home or at a pre-arranged pick up point – until they are in the care of the school, and similarly on the return journey.

Staff currently working in school kitchens or as teaching assistants could be offered the chance to add being a school escort to their duties in a bid to fill the roles.

Lack of school escort staff was initially raised as an issue by Ceiriog Valley Councillor Trevor Bates (Ind) towards the end of last year.

At a meeting of the council’s lifelong learning scrutiny committee, Rossett Cllr Ross Shepherd (Con) asked for an update on the recruitment and retention situation.

The council’s head of service strategy Rachel Penman said recruitment was ongoing, but staff were leaving the role due to the limited number of hours on offer as the cost of living crisis continues to bite.

Vacancies could be offered to council staff already working in education support in addition to their current duties as a creative way of filling the roles.

“We have been doing quite a bit of work to recruit additional escorts”, she said.

“We have seen a bit of a problem with retention particularly in the last 12 to 18 months as the cost of living crisis has impacted on people.

“It’s a job where there are relatively few hours of employment but it does tie up your day, so unless you can find other employment that fits neatly between the start and the end of the school day – then you’re only earning for that short period in the morning and afternoon.

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“One of the things we’re looking at is whether we can combine the duties of a school escort with the duties of other education related duties such as catering, teaching assistants.

“We’ve got quite a number of staff that are school escorts and also teaching assistants so they have a more substantial employment but the times and the circumstances complement.”

Andrea Stevenson HR business partner at the council said the authority had spoken with school escort staff and schools. Flyers have also been distributed as part of the recruitment drive.

She said: “We’ve done a number of different things.

“We’ve got a recruitment day coming up on June 7 and school escorts will be a part of that in terms of talking, explaining the role, answering any queries people have got if they’re thinking about it.”

She added that job vacancies with 20 hours on offer are more attractive than those only offering five hours.

Maximus, the replacement Remploy organisation has also been approached for potential applicants too.

Pant Cllr Stella Matthews (Lab) raised concerns that she had been contacted by someone who put their name forward for a school escort role but heard nothing back.

Officers assured Cllr Matthews that there is a rolling advert on the council’s recruitment webpage, that applicants come through in batches and there can be a wait before employment is confirmed with DBS background checks needing to be carried out.