Skip to main content

Would you prefer pound;4.97 an hour or pound;13,000 a year with holidays?

CLASSROOM assistants Glynis Sexton and Mike Skulski both work roughly the same number of hours each week, but their pay deals are significantly different.

Mrs Sexton earns only pound;4.97 an hour working with pupils at Hadrian primary in South Shields, so has an uphill struggle bringing up four children on her own.

Despite four years' experience and a qualification to work as a teaching assistant, the 41-year-old receives no pay during the holidays and is unsure how she can reach the next grade of pound;5.65 per hour.

She is critical of schools in South Tyneside for paying teaching assistants by the hour while giving nursery nurses pound;15,000-a-year contracts.

"What I get is not a living wage, particularly with four children," she said. "I think I'm fortunate because the school is really good to me, and my two youngest go there so I can pick them up afterward. But if I don't work, I don't get paid, and everybody should be paid during the holidays."

Several hundred miles south in Norfolk, classroom assistant Mike Skulski gets a pound;13,000-a-year salary, which includes holiday pay.

The 44-year-old has been working with pupils with severe learning difficulties at Harford Manor school in Norwich for 12 years.

Mr Skulski has always found the support staff pay disappointing, as he previously worked as a computer operator for an insurance company.

But he feels fortunate compared with classroom assistants in other authorities, and those who started the job in Norfolk after 1999, when the local education authority raised the hours for new teachers from 32 to 37 a week, and switched to paying support staff for only 42 weeks instead of throughout the year.

Mr Skulski is optimistic he can work his way up the local government employees' pay scale, and is pressing the authority - with other local Unison members - to allow teaching assistants to reach higher grades.

"There are ways you can progress, but the pay is still not brilliant.

"I hear about some LEAs that are doing brilliant things with classroom assistants, and some that are nightmares, and think there just has to be a national agreement," he said.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you