THE Government is planning a career structure for teaching assistants - and some could soon earn more than the teachers they help.
Ministers want new categories of senior assistant and specialistmanaging assistant, and employers are determined to boost the pay of the best. Local authority leaders believe highly-trained assistants with around 10 years'
experience should be paid up to pound;25,000. Newly-qualified teachers outside London earn less than pound;18,000.
Graham Lane, chair of the National Employers' Organisation, said: "If people are really getting trained and experienced in what is effectively teaching not only individuals but also groups of pupils, often with special needs, you would expect ... their salary (to) rise to the bottom end of the scale for professional teachers."
In return for taking on extra responsibilities, such as working in school holidays, the best should be paid as well as teachers approaching the performance threshold - about pound;25,000, he added.
Public services union Unison, which represents the largest number of teaching assistants, estimates that they earn an average of pound;5-pound;6 per hour. However, this varies according to local authorities and even within schools.
Education Secretary Estelle Morris wants schools to employ more assistants to reduce teacher shortages - they could take charge of classes when teachers are absent.
Christina McAnea, head of education at Unison, said: "It is great that the Government wants to see a career structure for support staff but we need the money to back it up."
Mr Lane estimates it would cost pound;500 million to train assistants and pay them higher wages. He said it would be some years before the best assistants could earn pound;20,000-plus.
John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said that plans to pay some teaching assistants more than teachers would aggravate teachers and do little to tackle the low pay of most support staff.
Leader, 26 Briefing, 30-31
HOW DUTIES WOULD ALTER
Teaching assistant Qualifications: None, but must complete induction training.
Duties: Supporting individual pupils, administration,clearing up after lessons. Those with training could work with groups of pupils.
Senior assistant Qualifications: Likely to have A-level or equivalent or significant experience. Particular skills in literacy, numeracy, ICT or music. Could also specialise in special needs.
Duties: Supporting the teacher in the classroom,taking small groups; covering for teachers in certain circumstances. Could supervise pupils outside lessons and carry out planning and assessment with the teacher.
SpecialistManaging assistant Qualifications: Some training in teaching techniques. May have degree or equivalent. Senior assistants could move to this role with relevant skills and experience.
Duties: "Significant place" in the classroom. Would cover for teacher absence and take whole class to allow teachers to focus on individuals or marking. Would have specialist knowledge and do planning in that area. Could manage other assistants.