Assistants more than gap-fillers

IT is pleasing to read that qualified teachers are in agreement on the issue of support staff deserving adequate pay (TES, July 20). However, David Christie went on to say that support staff should not be used "to plug gaps in teaching numbers", his objection being that in his opinion support staff are not trained to teach children.

There are many experienced, well-qualified teaching assistants in primary schools across the country who regularly work effectively with groups of children both in and out of the classroom. Does Mr Christie think that these children are not being taught when they are involved in this type of group?

The teaching assistants who are deployed in this manner in their schools often have successfully completed higher-level qualifications such as the Open University Specialist Teaching Assistant Certificate course and the Foundation Degree for Teaching Assistants.

We also observe colleagues who are qualified to teach and incorporate their best pedagogies into our own working practice.

It is widely accepted that teaching assistants do teach - that is why our title has changed to the one in current use. If it were not for the support staff in many schools, a significant number of children who have learning or behavioural difficulties would not be able to access the curriculum and therefore would not learn.

I feel that this gives further credence to that fact that although support staff often do not hold teaching degrees, they are perfectly capable of "teaching" due to their vast experience in schools and the relevance of the qualifications that they do hold.

Of course there are teaching assistants with different skills and talents, just as there are differing abilities in the teaching profession itself.

This is why the Government should quickly adopt its planned, three-tier career structure for teaching assistants. Only then will schools be able to deploy their support staff effectively in a way which will benefit the children, the school and the teaching assistants themselves, especially when the career structure is accompanied by a more realistic pay scale.

Kim Manners

106 Victoria Road

Plymouth

Devon

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