Teaching assistants make a difference
Used properly, teaching assistants are an effective way of improving schools and pupils' education.
UNISON declared today after the Daily Telegraph claimed that "hundreds of millions of pounds were spent drafting teaching assistants into schools" but that they had made no difference.
The Telegraph story followed a report by the Sutton Trust, but UNISON senior national officer for education Jon Richards pointed out that the trust report "is not a study of the effectiveness of teaching assistants, but a toolkit to improving learning. And it rightly points out – just as the 2010 Ofsted report did – that when they are appropriately deployed with clear responsibilities, teaching assistants can be effective.
"Teaching assistants are not substitute for teachers," added Mr Richards. "They support the work of teachers and pupils, particularly those with additional educational needs.
"Many are highly trained in specialist roles, but often badly paid, even though they are carrying out an important role...
UNISON Senior National officer for education
Many teachers keep emphasising that they would not be able to do their job in classes with very mixed abilities without the help of teaching assistants."
But, he said, with schools increasingly facing budget difficulties as government cuts bite, "many are trying to cut corners and increasingly, abuse teaching assistants by pushing them into roles that they are not trained to do.
"It is wrong for teaching assistants to teach whole classes over a longer period. This is not fair for the staff concerned on very little pay, and it is not fair for the children who need to be taught by qualified teachers."
The Telegraph report had caused anger among UNISON teaching assistant members, said Mr Richards, with one declaring: "Head teachers are using teaching assistants to teach when in fact they are trained as teaching assistants not teachers. Every child deserves a teacher – and a teaching assistant.
"How dare they blame the teaching assistants for their failures? Teaching assistants are the backbone of every school."