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Monday, 12 November, 2001, 11:27 GMT
Teachers promised support staff
Classroom assistants
Classroom assistants can help with reading
Classroom teachers in England could take charge of teams of support staff in schools, as the government seeks to re-shape their role into an "elite profession".

This could see classroom assistants supervising lessons - a proposal which was attacked by a teachers' union as "more childminding, less education".

And there have been claims this is an attempt to forestall growing difficulties in teacher recruitment - with suggestions that there could be a shortfall of 40,000 teachers in five years.

Presenting proposals for a substantial overhaul of how schools are staffed, the Education Secretary Estelle Morris says teachers could take on a more strategic role, supported by classroom assistants, technicians and learning mentors.

These classrooms - "rich in trained adults" - would allow teachers more time to concentrate on marking and lesson preparation.

Estelle Morris
Estelle Morris wants to modernise the role of teachers

But widening the role of classroom assistants has been dismissed by head teachers as a "blatantly cynical" attempt to cover up the teacher shortage.

The proposal "would do nothing to raise standards and undermines the role played by high quality teachers", said David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers.

The National Union of Teachers warned that assistants were no substitute for teachers - and that the government still needed to tackle the shortage of teachers.

And the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers warned that "all staff left in sole charge of pupils must be properly qualified and adequately trained".

These concerns were echoed by the Shadow Education Secretary Damian Green who attacked the proposals as "half-baked" and unlikely to make any positive difference to workload problems.

Mr Green said that the measures would do nothing to help the "demoralised" teachers who were leaving the profession.

The government has already announced the recruitment of 20,000 more assistants

The announcements by Estelle Morris are part of a package of changes to teaching, outlining how the profession might change over the next decade.

This will include a greater use of information technology and a greater emphasis on lessons being tailored to the individual needs of pupils.

"We need to see a remodelling not just of the teaching profession but of schools, staffing, school management and the way we use ICT," she said.

The increased use in classroom assistants has been a longstanding ambition of the government, with the previous education secretary, David Blunkett, having announced funds to recruit 20,000 more assistants by the end of 2002.

Education Secretary, Estelle Morris
"We can go for the headline, or we can start a debate today"

Classroom assistants
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