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Support staff have us covered

I write in reply to Philip Barton's letter, criticising my school for having "associate teachers" ("Associates bend more than words", TES, May 6).

If he were to look through job advertisements in The TES , he would find a variety of titles, not all of which figure in the current School Teachers'

Review Body. report. Surely, the title does not matter, it is the quality of learning in the classroom which does.

We are in an area with a severe shortage of teachers. Due to long-term absence one of our deputy heads is teaching 70 per cent of a full timetable and an assistant head 84 per cent. There will also be limits on the time teachers can spend covering for colleagues from September, which we are already following.

There are virtually no secondary supply staff in this area. Agency supply staff are often overseas-trained, with little idea of the English system, with no knowledge of my school's procedures, or pupils, and often no specialist knowledge of the subjects they are covering.

Much better is an "associate teacher", who can work with the allocated teacher, knows the school well, who has a relationship with the pupils, and is attached to two or three departments, in whose subjects heshe has some expertise.

If a class teacher's absence is planned, then the "associate teacher " can work with the teacher to prepare the lesson beforehand, deliver it, give ongoing advice to the pupils, and prepare them for follow-up.

I believe our "associate teachers" system works very well. The acid test is, would I want my children (or in my case grandchildren) taught on a short-term basis by an "associate teacher"? On the basis of our experience, yes, I would.

Keith Atton

Head, The Piggott school Twyford Road, Reading

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