Do people care about assistants' workload?

I HAVE been following the debate about the developing role of teaching assistants with interest. The letters from Mr Shepherd ("Who'll assist assistants?", TES, May 17) and Dr Wilson ("Transfer admin, transfer the stress") both struck a chord and raised a smile (TES, May 17).

I have worked as a teaching assistant in a variety of infant classes for around six years and am perhaps unusual on two counts. First, I am a bloke and second, after qualifying as a nursery nurse I trained as an early-years teacher, before deciding I did not need that level of stress and exhaustion. I stepped back into a supporting role plumping for no money but a better quality of life.

Most teachers I have worked with have made it clear I am a valued member of staff and I love the job, which includes many of the nicer aspects of teaching and few of the mind-numbing, soul-destroying ones.

When I first heard about Government plans to recognise the contribution my colleagues and myself make, with increased training opportunities and more responsibilities in the classroom, I thought somebody up there had finally realised we do more than just pin up displays and hear the occasional reader. I foolishly assumed that now we might finally be on the way to a proper career structure and a step or two up the pay scale.

Silly me. Given the state of the curriculum, there are already more things that have to be done in the course of a school week than there is time for, but moving the load sideways is not really addressing the problem. It also assumes that teaching assistants are not already fully occupied, which in my experience is definitely not the case.

So do I deserve the mooted pound;25,000? Possibly not. But although I am more fortunate than some, no amount of governmental figure-wrangling will get me a realistic mortgage on the pound;8,000 I actually take home.

To suggest anyone can be an effective teacher is demonstrably false, and demeans the profession, but how we assistants are perceived is important too. Not everyone is cut out to be a classroom assistant.

Mike Ray Top Flat 87 Mortimer Street Herne Bay Kent

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