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Teachers forced to become assistants

With primary schools receiving 100 applications for one job, frustrated NQTs are taking on work for which they are overqualified. Adi Bloom reports

Marie Turner graduated from teacher-training college last year expecting to walk into a pound;19,000-a-year job as a primary teacher. Instead, she has been looking for work as a classroom assistant, with a salary of Pounds 8,500.

Ms Turner's story is becoming increasingly commonplace. Since her training course ended in December, she has applied for more than 50 teaching jobs, with no success. "There are just no primary posts available," she said.

"Working as a teaching assistant is a last resort. But it is better than no job at all."

For the past few months, Ms Turner, 29, has been doing supply work in Derbyshire.

"Supply work is hard for new teachers," she said. "You get fed up not knowing where you are going to be every morning. You are sent to the worst schools and you don't get any advice. It destroys your confidence."

She has now been offered a part-time teaching job, which she has accepted, in the absence of any full-time posts.

Since the start of the year, fewer than 1,000 primary teaching jobs have been advertised nationally - a decrease of 2 per cent on last year. The TES recently reported that Leven Church of England primary, in Yorkshire, received more than 100 applications for a Year 1 teaching post.

Jo Walker, 26, is in the final year of a three-year degree in primary education, but a series of job applications in Lincolnshire has produced only one interview. She is now seeking work as a classroom assistant. "I just want to be working in a school," she said. "I can learn from the teachers there, and it will show my enthusiasm for working with children.

"It will be frustrating. I'll certainly envy the other teachers. But if the school gets to know you, that could be an advantage if a job comes up."

Emma Thompson, 22, who is on a teacher-training course in Worcestershire, has applied to be an assistant in a special-needs school. She agrees that there could be difficulties in working alongside qualified teachers. "I'll be able to take as much responsibility as the teacher can give me," she said. "I can give feedback and offer insight into what's happening. But it would be hard if I thought I could do better than the teacher."

Ms Thompson lives with her parents, so is not worried about the low pay offered to teaching assistants. But Ms Walker has built up pound;12,000 of student debts during her degree. "I want to start paying back my debts, and moving my way up the career ladder," she said. "I don't know how long I could stay as a teaching assistant. I'd hope not more than a few years."

Ms Turner agrees. She said: "I would have taken a teaching assistant job for only a year or so. It makes no sense to do a job like that when you're qualified at a higher level. You get to the stage where you just give up."

John Howson, of Education Data Surveys, believes that increased competition for primary jobs could drive many teachers from the profession. He said:

"If newly-qualified teachers want to keep in touch with teaching and develop their skills, some will have no choice but to take teaching assistant jobs. But some will think that the risk of not getting a teaching job is too great. So they will look elsewhere."


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