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‘I feel like I’m drowning in work’, writes a teaching assistant

With schools facing big budget cuts, they are forced to lean more and more heavily on their TAs, which is creating a whole new workload crisis, writes one classroom professional

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I am a level 3 TA in a primary school in the North West of England and I’m extremely concerned with how teaching assistants are being used and treated. I had wanted to progress in my role, and gain qualifications to become HLTA and then QTS, but I have now changed my mind.

Firstly, there is the fact that TAs of grades 2 and above are teaching groups and whole classes and are being used not just for PPA cover but to cover sickness, appointments, training, meetings etc. In my current role, I have been used to cover lessons including maths and English when the teacher I work with has been off.

The reason we are being used to cover is that there is no money to pay for supply teachers and it is cheaper if it is kept in-house. I know a TA who provides PPA cover and marking for three teachers every week as well as providing support to children in the class that she works with.

Schools are asking more and more of TAs these day in relation to workload. Not only are TAs doing all of the above, but they are also having to keep up to date with the classroom too.

Personally, I feel like I am drowning in work. I go into work early to try to get a head start with the preparation, photocopying and filing, and my time then gets taken up with additional jobs my teacher wants me do. I work closely with the children until lunch (usually eating into my lunch time of 30 minutes), followed by duty on the yard then on to class, working closely with the children again. After the children have gone home, the day doesn’t end there either. In addition to being with children all day (which I love), I am not given time during the day to complete displays. These are then done after school in my own time.

TAs' home lives are suffering

Some TAs have told me that they are considering reducing their hours or their pay grades (taking a pay cut) because of the stress they are experiencing in their role. And some schools in the North West are making all HLTAs redundant only for them to reapply for their jobs as level 3 cover supervisors. How can this be right? We undergo training and gain qualifications to do our jobs, often paid for by ourselves and in our own time, only to be treated like dirt. CPD is mainly done in our own time because the schools don’t want to release us. Training that is given on inset days to the teachers is not given to TAs because they would need to pay us. We are told that we can attend if we want to but won’t get paid because it would cost too much. We are professionals and should be treated accordingly. Headteachers, governors and most importantly the government need to realise this. Schools and the education system would fail without us.

TAs take work home with them on a regular basis, ranging from marking books to lesson planning, research, laminating and preparation (cutting things out for displays, preparing comprehension paper, craft etc). This has an impact on our home life; taking time that should be spent with our families, being parents and individuals. This then causes stress and in some cases ill feeling.

Extra pressure has been added with regards to observations too. We used to have our observation done with the class teacher in a normal lesson. We are now observed separately by either the SHLTA (senior high-level teaching assistant) or a member of the SLT. One TA who had never worked in Year 6 before was reduced to tears after her observation and being told that she needed to be reobserved.

Imagine the stress!

Julia Turner is a pseudonym. She is a TA in the North West of England

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