Staff tensions are a class issue

7th May 2004 at 01:00
Your article highlighted some of the tensions which can emerge in the teacher-learning support assistant relationship (TES, April 23). However, it only scratched the surface of the matter.

The "them and us" dynamic has been allowed to fester over many years in which inadequate attention has been paid to the career development of assistants, not to mention their pay and status. It is only now that the Government is belatedly seeing support staff as a solution to profound professional issues, such as teacher workload, that politicians and the media are turning the spotlight on them.

Often schools and their staff work successfully to overcome these difficulties but it is hardly surprising that there is such a strong clash of cultures between the usually middle-class, highly-educated teachers who may be "passing through" a school, and the usually female support staff from the local community, who are generally underpaid and undertrained, but who know they will probably still be there when the children they are currently supporting have kids of their own.

I know from experience how testing it can be managing support staff, but this is because we have created an underclass of staff within the education system and we cannot complain when we pay the price for having taken advantage, over many years, of their goodwill and hard work.

Phil Goss

Retired headteacher

22 Ruskin Drive

Kirkby Lonsdale

Carnforth, Lancashire

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