ECS group survey yields new sector snapshot

ECS group survey yields new sector snapshot

A wide-ranging survey of members working in education and children’s services was completed in March.

A sign reading:

Carrying out this work allows Prospect to get a more accurate and up-to-date picture of our members working in the sector, their working lives and their professional priorities.

Ultimately, this information allows the union to offer members a better and more relevant service.

Here are some of the main findings from the survey. 

Directly employed

  • The majority of respondents are directly employed (54%) and just over three-quarters work for local authorities (76%), with two-thirds of those covered by Soulbury.
  • The next largest groups outside of other (11%) work in educational charities (5%) or early years settings (4%).
  • Most common areas of work are school improvement (48%), children’s services management (11%) and early years professional (11%).
  • Most directly employed are on full-time, permanent contracts and have been with their employer for more than 10 years.
  • A sizeable minority (45%) of members have been working for their current employer for less than 10 years.


  • 27% of respondents are self employed, with about half saying clients include local authorities (54%) or multi-academy trusts (48%).
  • Our self-employed respondents provide a range of services, but the three most common are school improvement (22%), teacher training/continuing professional development (15%) and advice/training for governors (13%).
  • 5% of our self-employed respondents perform inspection work for education regulator Ofsted, Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) and Estyn, the Welsh schools watchdog.
  • More than half of self-employed respondents work fewer than 20 hours a week (53%) and have engagements spread throughout the year (80%).
  • The most common tax status is sole trader (55%), followed by PAYE (15%) and personal service company (15%).
  • The overwhelming majority of self-employed respondents are happy with their current status and do not think they are/would not want to be classed as either “dependent contractors” or ”workers”.

Retired professionals made up 16% of the respondents.

Career and union

  • Respondents get their continuing professional development from a variety of sources: most common are employer (24%), self (22%) or local authority (17%).
  • Services most valued from Prospect include news/updates (60%), individual support (43%) and pensions advice (37%).

The online survey was sent to Prospect’s nearly 2,000 professionals working in education, children’s services, early years, commissioning and children’s social care. We received 312 responses in total for a highly creditable response rate of just under 17%.

Reflecting on the findings, Prospect national secretary Steve Thomas said: “These survey results paint a fascinating picture of the role of education professionals in 2018. 

“While the clear majority of our members continue to work in local authorities providing professional support, a higher number than I might have expected have been working with their employer for under 10 years. In addition a growing number of members are self-employed. 

“It was interesting to see that the vast majority of self-employed members were happy with that status. That may of course reflect a previous working background in employment and lifestyle. 

“I have met with our group executive council to share and discuss the findings of the survey, which will form an important part of our planning process as we consider what products, services and information our members need and want from their trade union.”