BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh
BBCi CATEGORIES   TV   RADIO   COMMUNICATE   WHERE I LIVE   INDEX    SEARCH 

BBC NEWS
 You are in: Education
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Hot Topics 
UK Systems 
League Tables 
Features 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 


Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

SERVICES 
Saturday, 17 November, 2001, 18:07 GMT
Union leader denies 'pig ignorant' slur
Classroom
Classroom assistants 'raise standards', Mr de Gruchy claims
The leader of one of Britain's biggest teaching unions has denied claims he compared classroom assistants to "pig ignorant peasants".

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the NASUWT, said he was actually complimenting them for raising standards when he used the phrase.

He told the BBC he was arguing that greater responsibilities for classroom assistants meant they must be suitably qualified and trained and "could not be, as I used the phrase, 'pig ignorant peasants'".

A row had broken out over reports of Mr de Gruchy's comments and Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said he was "appalled" by the "outrageous" phrase.

But Mr de Gruchy said his intended meaning had been misinterpreted.

'No comparison'

He used the phrase when speaking at a Social Market Foundation debate, shortly before Education Secretary Estelle Morris was due to make an address about classroom assistants.


I believe that Nigel de Gruchy is totally out of touch with reality

Dave Prentis
Unison
Mr de Gruchy said he had not drawn a comparison between classroom assistants and "pig ignorant" people.

He told BBC News 24: "I was warning the government about a mistake that it might make in the future, I was making no comment whatsoever about the quality of classroom assistants."

Mr de Gruchy claimed he had not meant to cause any harm or offence and was "more than happy to offer my apologies to any classroom assistant" offended by the remarks.

The NASUWT, he said, was one of few unions happy to look at extending the role of people like classroom assistants to take the pressure off teachers.

NASUWT leader Nigel de Gruchy
Nigel de Gruchy denies insulting classroom assistants
He said: "I simply said that we had to be careful to make sure that whatever roles we developed we had to make sure that we appointed appropriately qualified and appropriately trained people to such roles."

The government is concerned about a shortage of teachers, expected to reach 40,000 posts in five years, and is keen to see schools staffed by adults with a "range" of skills.

Mr Prentis said classroom assistants had been compared to a "teacher's life support system" and added: "I believe that Nigel de Gruchy is totally out of touch with reality".

"Classroom assistants have a wealth of experience and play a vital role in educating our children," he said.

A spokesman for the Department of Education and Skills said: "The government values and respects the work of our 186,000 teaching assistants and support staff."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Sue Littlemore
"Assistants could help solve the teacher shortage"
See also:

17 Nov 01 | Mike Baker
Spin on classroom assistants
12 Nov 01 | Education
What are classroom assistants?
12 Nov 01 | Education
Teachers promised support staff
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Education stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Education stories