I HAVE read with considerable interest your articles on classroom assistants.
I fully understand what Dr Alan Marr in Research Focus stated but part of the sub-heading on his article "...is the Government cutting down on the professionals?", appears to place learning support staff into the category of complete amateurs.
For many years, I have been interested in education but have been unsuccessful in gaining a place on a one-year, full-time, post-graduate certificate in education course. I do not possess a degree, but hold a degree-equivalent qualification in administrative management. I am also a qualified surgical chiropodist, having studied anatomy and physiology from head to foot.
In September, 1999, at the age of 51, I became a full-time learning support assistant in a technology college, which has enabled me to gain invaluable classroom experience. This will be vitally important if I am eventually successful in gaining qualified teacher status either via a PGCE course or the employmet-based route into teaching.
Over the past eight months, I have learnt that many of my learning support assistant colleagues hold degrees in subjects beneficial to the curriculum and could contribute a wealth of experience, if permitted to do so. I understand that, on a one-year PGCE course, the teacher-training establishments do not presume to teach the student teachers their specialist subject, it being acknowledged that the student teachers already hold the relevant qualifications in those subjects.
Undoubtedly, classroom control and instruction in how to teach are techniques which must be learnt, but is it fair to imply that members of the learning support staff do not fall into the category of "professional"?
I am certain that if the Government examined the ranks of learning support staff, who hold degrees or equivalent qualifications, much of the teacher shortage could be overcome by recruiting from that source.
Keith I Macavoy
25 Hamble Road