HEADTEACHERS want to recruit more classroom asssistants as a cheap alternative to teachers, according to research.
Plans to boost assistant numbers by 20,000 have provoked concern that ministers are seriously considering them as an alternative because of difficulties in the recruitment and retention of teachers.
Figures reported in today's TES show that the ratio of primary teachers to assistants is expected to drop to only 2:1, compared to 5:1 eigt years ago.
Classroom assistants cost about a third of an experienced teacher, and their rising numbers mean they already account for an average 5 per cent of primary schools' budgets - and as much as 17 per cent in some cases, according to interim research findings reported by Dr Alan Marr of the Open University.
The Department for Education and Employment, said it was "not trying to staff schools on the cheap".
Research Focus, 22