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Unsung assistants boost performance

YOUR threshold report highlights the extent to which public money can be wasted in a climate of haste and ill-thought-through policy. Our research into teaching assistants in primary schools highlights a further problem with the concept of performance pay.

In a study of three English local education authorities we found that just over half the teachers said they worked with an assistant every day and most received between six and 15 hours a week support. Assistants were found to be heavily involved with the literacy and numeracy hours, often supporting the many children who found it difficult to learn from whole-class teaching.

We conclude that schools would have been hard-pressed to implement the literacy and numeracy strategies without assistants.

How out-of-touch, therefore, for performance-related pay to conceive of teachers as "lone performers". And how potentially hurtful to a poorly-paid group of people who are already under-acknowledged in most public discussions on children's learning in schools.

Dr Roger Hancock Faculty of education and language studies The Open University Milton Keynes

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