Hard done-by TAs need support and development rather than undermining

18th September 2009 at 01:00

The key message conveyed in media reports of the Institute of Education's survey on teaching assistants seems to be that TAs harm pupils ("Teaching assistants impair pupil performance", September 4).

It's a pity more detail wasn't included in the coverage, such as that headteachers have complete freedom to decide who can and cannot be left in charge of children. There is also no requirement for a minimum qualification or training level and no right to training or CPD for support staff.

Most TAs are employed on an hourly contract and only paid for the time children are in class. Some schools have cut hours to exclude break times and there is no time for TAs to plan, prepare or discuss issues with teachers. Good luck finding a TA on pound;11,000 for 22 hours a week. Taking the support staff average of pound;9.71 for 22 hours gives a gross weekly salary of pound;213.62. The majority of classroom-based staff don't get paid for holidays, so even if we assume they get 42 weeks' pay, this is less than pound;9,000.

Unison has called consistently for CPD for all, minimum qualifications levels and enforceable contracts. This would ensure that TAs are not exploited. Although the findings of this report are counter-intuitive and different from some others, schools need to heed it. Support staff have a key role to play and schools that have properly and fairly remodelled can, and do, reflect this.

  • Christina McAnea, National secretary, Education and Children's Services, Unison.

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