SOME 500 people, mostly women, applied for just five posts as classroom assistants in South Ayrshire, underlining that the Government will have few difficulties meeting its target of 5,000 assistants across Scotland.
Ministers want to recruit additional hands in primary classes to free up teachers' time as part of their drive to raise standards. Initial fears that the starting salary of Pounds 7,000 may be insufficient to recruit high-calibre assistants appear groundless.
Mike McCabe, South Ayrshire's director of education, said: "We were absolutely amazed at the level of interest and delighted with the calibre of applicants. They come from a mix of backgrounds but most have had experience of working with children."
The assistants will shortly start work in five pilot primaries helping in the classroom, doing administration and taking on supervision. They will be paid Pounds 7,000-Pounds 10,000, below the level of nursery nurses.
Meanwhile, an investigation into assistants in West Lothian says teachers welcome the initiative and say assistants should be included in teaching and learning.
There was widespread agreement about the work of assistants. Teachers would benefit from reduced stress and feelings of isolation, and increased job satisfaction and ability to respond spontaneously to events.