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Assistants are not poor seconds

I have just read the article concerning a recent survey of the benefits of having classroom assistants in schools (TES, January 31).

I and my fellow classroom assistants were annoyed and upset as we felt that our roles were looked upon as a poor second choice and that the money would be better spent on qualified teachers. It also suggested that we were not educated enough to do the job because we had not had any formal training or qualifications.

I would like to point out that there are many teachers in this country who have been to teacher training college but do not know the first thing about going into a classroom and dealing with the responsibility of implementing the national curriculum and of managing a class of 30 or more children.

I may not have had any formal training when I was initially employed as a classroom assistant and, yes, I was a parent at the school first of all, but this should not be looked on as a bad thing. In fact, it is a bonus.

I have been very lucky in that the school I work for gave me the opportunity to attend a wide variety of courses so that I was able to extend my skills. In return, I do an excellent job. I spend a lot of my lunchtimes working, as well as going in before school and, if needs be, staying late. None of this extra time is paid for but is done out of goodwill and in the knowledge that I am doing the best I can with the responsibility I have been given.

The only part of your article that pleased me was the piece that said the salary we receive needs to be reviewed. We are not very well paid and, as your article pointed out, our hourly rate is less than that of a midday meals supervisor. This point goes largely un-noticed, and people like myself are expected to do more and more out of the goodness of our hearts.

If you were to ask any of the teachers at the school where I work, every one of them would say that classroom assistants make their lives a lot easier and that if we weren't around they would be put under even more pressure. And I'm sure they will all agree they are under enough as it is!

PA WARD

29 Bridge Avenue Mansions Bridge Avenue London W6

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