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Mixed verdict on help from support staff

Teachers enjoy freedom from routine jobs, but 1 in 10 say assistants add to their workload

THE MAJORITY of teachers say their support staff increase job satisfaction, but half think they fail to reduce workload, a government report has suggested.

The study revealed that around one in 10 teachers believes teaching assistants can add to workload and stress. This was despite the finding that 14 out of the 26 routine and clerical tasks listed under the 2003 school workforce agreement on pay and conditions are now mostly carried out by support staff.

Only record keeping, classroom displays, exam administration and personal advice are still largely carried out by teachers.

The research revealed that most teachers had not been trained to work with classroom assistants and other support staff. Few had time to meet them for preparation and feedback. Some were so pressed they relied on notes to communicate. Around half of support staff had received formal training. But the majority of training was provided by teachers on the job.

Christina McAnea, head of education at Unison, the main support staff union, said: "Some staff are being asked to do jobs they haven't been trained to do and the teacher is having to show them, because schools are reluctant to take on trained staff to save money. This is adding to teachers' work rather than reducing it."

Ian Brown, headteacher of Lark Hall primary in Lambeth, south London, said that when he started at the school last term, staff begged for more time to improve communication between themselves and their support workers.

"The workload impact of having a teaching assistant is that you have to tell them what to do," he said. "Usually it works effectively, but both have to have time to interact, and that costs money that we don't have. We rely on their goodwill to stay behind unpaid after school and in lunch times and they usually do."

The study, carried out by the Institute of Education, showed that two thirds of staff worked up to three hours overtime per week. Around half received no extra pay.

But it also found the number of 52-week contracts had doubled from 22 per cent in 2004 to 45 per cent last year, meaning more support staff are getting paid during school holidays.

The five-year study of support staff in more than 2000 schools in England and Wales is the largest ever carried out. It comes just weeks after the announcement that a negotiating body is to be formed to create a formal, national pay structure for such staff. At present, their pay is determined locally by schools and local authorities.

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