Speech therapists feel undervalued
Many speech therapists in education are dissatisfied with their grading. In the years of process in which their position was reviewed, they feel that they have not been taken seriously. This is the conclusion of a study by the Education magazine into higher salary scales.
For at least seven years, speech therapists in education had to fight for an appropriate scale, and for many it is not over yet. More than seventy speech therapists, employed by various employers, responded to the appeal of the Education magazine in September to share experiences with a higher rating. 'We have to fight very hard as speech therapists to show how important we are in education', writes a speech therapist. Or: 'It is a very slow process with ultimately an unsatisfactory result.'
'The image that we only play games at the kitchen table still seems to exist'
Another speech therapist says: 'The image that we only play games at the kitchen table still seems to exist'. And: 'It seems like a fight without end'.
Almost four years ago, in the collective labor agreement po 2019-2020, it was agreed that employers in primary education would review their job classification system for teaching support staff. The description of the work of speech therapists also had to be examined. Before the revision, their work was rated in salary scale 8, which has now officially become scale 9. A small number of institutions introduced a second description for a speech therapist in scale 10.
The vast majority of speech therapists were already in scale 9 and have not improved. Especially the speech therapists the cluster 2 education*Four institutions specialize in cluster 2 education: Auris, Kentalis, VierTaal and Vitus Zuid. In 2021, more than 17.000 students received education or support from 67 locations. Half of these pupils received outpatient guidance and support in regular education. – for children who are deaf or hard of hearing or who have a language development disorder – consider that at least a scale of 10 is appropriate for their position.
A typical response to the Education magazine survey reads: 'The salary is not in proportion to our activities, which the complex problems in cluster 2 demand: co-teaching the teacher, the responsibility for the development of the pupil and arranging, conducting tests and setting goals, the parent contacts and the classroom offerings. The salary gap between teachers and speech therapists has only widened, despite equal work and thinking levels.'
In many schools, this led to tough discussions with managers and objection procedures. Often without success, the responses show: 'It is indicated that there is no negotiation', 'The policy is that only 1 person per location can get the position in scale 10' and 'Attempts to move up to a higher scale, failed again recently.' A few succeed: 'I have just completed a long, very negative and energy-consuming process. In the end, the board awarded the scale requested, but I find it really sad that I had to go so deep.'
'In the end, the board awarded the requested scale, but I really find it sad that I had to go so deep'
Many of the seventy speech therapists who shared their experiences work for Kentalis, a national organization with 32 schools for cluster 2 education. The process of arriving at an appropriate valuation is still ongoing. Kentalis initially drew up a generic job description for a speech therapist. Because the desired rather than actual job content was the point of departure, the Participation Council (Mr) did not agree. After the disputes committee ruled in favor of the mr, Kentalis called in another agency. This only resulted in two job descriptions last summer: speech therapist A in scale 9 and B in scale 10. Discussions are currently taking place with the employees about their classification.
“There is movement and that is positive,” says Isolde Podt, speech therapist of Kentalis' outpatient service. “We have had the feeling for a long time that we have to fight against our own organization. Thanks to new commitments, we finally feel heard and seen a bit more.”
She herself is now classified as a speech therapist B in scale 10, but most of her colleagues are still in scale 9. A scale that consists of ten steps: 'I have been at the top for fifteen years and a higher scale is not possible', someone writes. . What is particularly striking is that a teaching qualification often entitles the teacher to the LC teacher scale, a difference that can amount to more than 600 euros net per month.
'With all salary increases, the gap with the teachers is getting bigger. That doesn't feel right'
Isolde Podt explains: “With all salary increases, the gap with the teachers is getting bigger. That doesn't feel right. We also bear responsibility for the development of pupils, namely in the areas of speech, language and communication. The educational offer is related to this. We are seen as specialists, but this is not reflected in the salary.”
She has been committed to a better salary for education support staff for years, for example through the action group #OOPdoetOOKmee. She would prefer to see a better classification at collective labor agreement level, with a third job description for speech therapists in scale 11 who, for example, have followed a scientific course and are nationally committed as experts. “Those colleagues are also really shortchanged”.
'It has been a battle for appreciation for twenty years and I have already seen many colleagues drop out'
It is hopeful that Kentalis has promised a new job description with a higher scale for the program counsellors, where speech therapists, teachers and remedial educationalists do the same work. But all in all, it is a long-term road that does not benefit confidence in the employer. Eand speech therapist writes: 'It has been a battle for appreciation for twenty years and I have already seen many colleagues drop out.'
“My confidence is recovering, but I understand the feeling of mistrust among colleagues,” says Podt. “By seeing standing up for my profession as a political game, in which you try to leave out the emotion, I managed to follow the right path and maintain a good relationship with the employer. In the end, that pays off the most.”
The fact that there are now several job descriptions with separate scales for speech therapists in education is mentioned AObdriver Eugenie Stolk a good result. “Speech therapist is an essential position that deserves proper appreciation. The process at Kentalis has taken far too long, giving people the feeling that they are unimportant to the organization. That is really a pity.”
In addition, the job evaluation system is quite abstract, which she believes requires good information from the employer. “For example, I often have to explain that a Master's does not automatically entitle you to a higher scale,” says Stolk. “The Fuwasys job evaluation system is based on tasks and responsibilities and not on level of education. I understand that the distance to the salary of teachers feels unfair to many speech therapists. Work in the classroom is now valued more as it should be, so before the last collective labor agreements, the teachers' salary was skewed and that has been corrected.”
'For the speech therapist who works a lot with the group and has many responsibilities, at least a scale of 10 would be logical'
Many speech therapists indicate that, just like the teacher, they are responsible for the development of students and that they also teach. Think of sign lessons, language lessons and communication skills lessons: 'It's that I think the work is fantastic, but if we all start working according to the job description that fits scale 9, we will really be doing the children short. Nobody wants that, right?', writes a speech therapist.
Stolk: “The speech therapist who works a lot with the group and has many responsibilities has a different kind of job than someone who only provides one-on-one guidance. It would make sense if it ended up at least in scale 10.”
Special education schools have also been given extra wage room for a higher salary scale for the position of speech therapist. If you structurally perform tasks that belong to scale 10, then the employer should pay you accordingly. According to Stolk, the problem is that it is often a gray area what the formally assigned activities are. She recommends agreeing with the employer exactly what your tasks are and keeping track of the additional tasks assigned.
“If you can demonstrate that you do those tasks for a longer period of time, you can apply for reappraisal,” she explains. "The AOb can help with this and it is also good to involve colleagues in the same situation: together you are stronger. For example, a whole group of teaching assistants who structurally performed different tasks were eventually given a higher scale.”
'We intend to make scale 10 possible for more speech therapists'
Kentalis regrets the dissatisfaction and distrust among speech therapists. “Describing and valuing correctly is indeed a long process, which we as an organization try to conduct as accurately as possible,” says institutional director Ramses Vulperhorst. “For example, we had research carried out twice by an independent agency. Before the summer, the MR approved the two-level job description, which is based on the current work of speech therapists.”
“What makes it complicated is that the collective labor agreement has automatically scaled up teacher salaries in special education to LC and LD. As a result, the salary between teachers and speech therapists has grown further skewed. What also makes it complex is that we are a national organization with more than thirty locations and that our two hundred speech therapists often perform various activities, both at school, in care and outpatient services. Naturally, we would like to do justice to their efforts and expertise. We are currently conducting discussions about grading, with the intention of making scale 10 possible for more speech therapists from January.”