Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Teaching assistants do a fantastic job. I haven’t got any time for the kind of elitism that was prevalent in schools, teachers couldn’t be questioned and parents were kept at the school gate. The creation of a ‘walled garden’ left teachers open to attack by the forces of conservatism.
On the other side we do need well paid, well trained, teachers. It should be a job that people aspire to. What concerns me is the way that schools have used teaching assistants to casualise and de-skill the job. In one sense their role has changed from filling the glue pots, sharpening the pencils and washing the paintbrushes. The 2003 ‘Remodelling Agreement’, which allowed classes to be taught by teaching assistants or cover supervisors, exemplified this change.
The rise in numbers has been startling, over the ten years of the Labour Government teaching assistants in primary and secondary schools rose from 61,260 to 165,380 and other support staff from 75,200 to 147,000. In primary schools the number of teachers increased from 183,930 to 188,860.
There is no doubt that many teaching assistants have a wealth of experience to call on. However, when you look at the care of the elderly, the young, the sick, or the disabled then the profile of the workforce is always the same – female, part time, casual, untrained and low paid. 98% of teaching assistants are female, they work on average 26 hours, one in five have no permanent contract, they only need NVQ Level 1 (below GCSE standard) to work in schools and average pay in primary schools is £7.90 an hour.
In many primary and secondary schools children (particularly those with special needs) may spend most of their school day being taught by teaching assistants. Contrast that with other European countries, in most of them the job of ‘teaching assistant’ simply doesn’t exist. Apart from the caretaker and the admin staff the only adults in the schools are teachers. If they have extra money they employ teachers.
The presence of a highly educated workforce isn’t only a standard in education, take children in care, in Britain 80% of staff are unqualified and only 1% of looked after children make it to higher education. Contrast that with Germany and Denmark where a high proportion of staff have degrees and most children in their care go on to university. There is a similar position with nursery care, in Denmark every childcare worker has a three year degree, whereas in England 40% of staff don’t even have GCSEs.
Teaching assistants make it easier for teachers to manage the class, particularly if they take out some of the more troublesome pupils. On the other side many special education needs children have complex requirements that call for highly skilled staff. Where has been the research about the impact of teaching assistants in schools?
This isn’t an attack on teaching assistants; in my personal experience most of them would make excellent teachers - if they had the time and the finances to train. The bottom line is, if you had an accident who would you want to attend to you a St John’s Ambulance volunteer or a trained paramedic? If you were assaulted in the street would you want a special constable to deal with the situation or a police officer? In the event of a fire would it be a part time retained or professional fire fighter?
So who would you want teaching your child? A teaching assistant or a teacher?
Labels: Work 2
As an ex classroom assistant, my answer would have to be a teacher.
As a teacher I work very closely with my fantastic TA to plan and prepare lesson for LA children.
These children really benefit and improve with this small group input and as a result are now coming back into class when they can cope.
Fair enough we are more qualified but in no way do we allow TA's to just get on with it on their own.
For someone who doesn't have time for 'elitism' you're coming across as a bit of a snob.
I feel sorry for the TA's in your school, they obviously have no idea what you really think of them.
That would depend. If the teacher was as cynical as you sound (you're not a realist, you are a cynic) I'd have thought the caretaker, cook or secretary would probably give the children a better deal.
There are those of us that are content with being highly qualified TA.s and do not have asperations to become teachers.
Well Mr Read way to go, if your aim was to make us feel anymore undervalued, it's people like you that instill those cynical views.
Perhaps a day in a TA's shoes would help you with a reality check