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Heads will decide whether staff teach

TEACHING assistants will be able to take lessons when heads think they are ready, even if they do not meet new standards announced this week Ministers are introducing a grade of higher-level assistant and have issued a draft list of standards to be met. But draft regulations leave it for heads to decide whether the assistant is up to the job.

Heads will have to ensure that assistants are directed and supervised by qualified teachers, and that every class or group is assigned to a qualified teacher who will remain responsible for pupil progress.

David Miliband, school standards minister, said more support staff were key to reducing teachers' workload. But he insisted they were not a replacement for teachers, as some fear. "No one suggests nurses should do brain surgery. But no brain surgeon would work without a nursing team. These proposals are about giving teachers the professional support to do their jobs to the highest standards."

The new standards for assistants say, for example, that they must be able to "work collaboratively with colleagues as part of a professional team".

But, while teachers are expected to "know and understand" curricula, teaching methods and expectations for their subjects and age groups, senior assistants need only be "aware" of these.

The Teacher Training Agency pilots training for senior assistants this autumn. Around 7,000 are expected to train in 200304, rising to 20,000 a year. Courses are expected to last around 50 days.

Support Staff regulations consultation closes May 7, see www.teachernet.gov.ukremodelling. Standards for senior assistants consultation closes July 7, see www.tta.gov.ukhlta

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