Chalk and no talk

The TES was fascinated by Tony Blair's announcement last week of Pounds 20 million to pay for 20,000 new classroom assistants in primary schools over the next three years.

Naturally, it turned to the Department for Education and Employment for further enlightenment, but found its questions disappearing into a void of non-information.

The helpful spokesman started well.

"There will be 2,000 assistants in 199900, up to a total of 20,000 over three years. The 2,000 assistants this year will be used to help children in Years 3 and 4 who have fallen behind in literacy skills.

"And we are looking at putting together a coherent framework of qualifications for assistants. This should allow them to build to higher qualifications and reach a standard that could help them towards becoming a teacher," he said.

But questions as to the nature of training the new assistants will receive, and whether this might substitute for the standard entry requirements for teacher training drew a blank.

"We don't know yet. These things will be looked at very carefully and we will give out further details in due course," said the man from the DFEE.

"It's a question of pursuing things and taking things forward...There are no figures for how the 2,000 will be funded. We haven't got that information at the moment. We expect a full announcement as soon as possible... We announce things in stages... It's all good news."

So now you know.

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