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Vital cogs need respect

WHY do some members of the teaching profession become defensive the moment anyone suggests that teaching assistants should have a decent pay scale and no longer earn the pittance, which has for so long been deemed suitable as our salary?

Gone are the days when we took on the job because the hours suited us with children being at school. I don't deny that quite a few years ago this was commonplace and how I came into the job. But having managed a business, I believe I brought with me a number of useful skills. I work with nine other assistants who between them have an array of qualifications. Four have degrees, one is a Braille instructor, another is a qualified solicitor and one is going on to drama college.

We no longer spend our days listening to children reading, or printing out worksheets for teachers. We are a vital part of the system and get little financial reward. No, we do not have to prepare schemes of work or mark piles of books and all the other endless list of administrative tasks which teachers are required to do. And no, we don't get non-contact periods as a general rule because we don't have a specific union to fight our case.

However, we have to go from curriculum area to curriculum area knowing subject matter for all our lessons, as many as seven periods in any day, across key stages 3 and 4. We support pupils who have a diverse range of needs and we must have the ability to use a wide variety of strategies for each child.

We must by law keep a record of support for each child who is at stage 5 of the special needs register, for every lesson in which we support and yet we have no time on our timetable to keep these records, mostly doing in our own time. We support those many over-worked teachers to pick up on issues or problems with children, which would otherwise have gone unnoticed. The national key stage 3 literacy catch-up programme will be delivered by teaching assistants, in the not too distant future.

In a recent letter to The TES, a reader stated that it was an insult to qualified teachers having gained a degree, for top teaching assistants to be paid pound;18,000, which would be more than the lowest-paid teacher.

What are some teachers afraid of? Yes, there are good and bad in all professions. We are not trying to take over or be subversive. We are all on the same side, all we ask is the recognition we are due and the pay that reflects that.

Sally Anne Conroy 79 Upfield Road Hanwell EalingLondon W4

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