Genuine fears about support

23rd January 2004 at 00:00
The article by Graham Lane from the Local Government Association (TES, January 16), is dangerously counterproductive on the issue of support staff under the workload agreement.

To describe the issue of funding as a "red herring" is a travesty of the truth. Graham's touching faith in the cash that will be available for 20056 is in need of more convincing evidence when it comes to the net sum available at school level.

He skates over the genuine professional concern of teachers about the role of support staff in providing planning, preparation, assessment time and leadership and management time by taking whole classes, albeit under the responsibility of a qualified teacher.

In secondary schools, the aspiration has to be for teachers qualified to teach in the relevant subject. For primary schools, it would be highly unwise to ignore the finding of the Office for Standards in Education report on the literacy and numeracy strategies which says that a significant number of teachers do not have adequate subject knowledge. This is quite apart from the need to raise standards in primary schools under a pretty intensive accountability regime.

I am sure there is a real role for higher-level teaching assistants but there has to be a much more sensible professional debate that articulates this role to the satisfaction of heads, because they, after all, will decide who will be used to deliver the agreement.

An appropriate mix of teachers and support staff will do the trick, but Graham Lane will not win the hearts and minds of the profession by trying to represent his assertions as if they were facts.

David Hart

General secretary, National Association of Head Teachers

1 Heath Square

Boltro Road

Haywards Heath, West Sussex

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