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'Fair play' deal on way for assistants

Proposals for a national pay structure for teaching assistants and other support staff are being presented to education leaders.

Alan Johnson, Education Secretary, is to consider a document outlining plans for a national body negotiating pay, terms and conditions in the next two weeks.

The proposals have been drawn up following nearly a year of negotiations between support staff unions GMB, Unison and TG, employers and Department for Education and Skills (DfES) officials. The working group was set up because plans for more trust and foundation schools will increase the number of support staff employed directly by schools rather than local authorities.

If a national pay framework is accepted it would have an impact on half a million non-teaching staff in schools in both England and Wales.

Since 1997, the number of support staff in schools has nearly doubled, from 136,000 to 268,000. The number of teaching assistants has risen from 61,300 to 148,100. A classroom assistant's salary can range from pound;8,000 to Pounds 18,000 and unions say there are differences in the terms and conditions for support staff depending where the are employed.

Brian Strutton, head of school standards at GMB, said: "They are being asked to do more, with ever-expanding roles, and they are still being paid pin money."

Christina McAnea, national secretary for education at Unison, said a number of options would be put before ministers, but she hoped they would opt for a separate national pay structure.

She said: "We know that 1,300 higher level teaching assistants have been trained, but we don't know how many are being paid as such in schools. We don't know if they are being exploited."

A spokeswoman for the DfES said: "There is a commitment on the Government's part to address the issue of fair play and rewards for support staff in our schools."

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