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EDITIONS
Monday, 21 October, 2002, 23:57 GMT 00:57 UK
Assistants 'no threat to teachers'
Sara Rutter
Sara Rutter says the job is about pupil support
Thousands of "advanced" teaching assistants could be drafted into schools with the power to lead classes and even stand in for absent teachers.

Teachers' unions fear the profession may be "dumbed down" by such a move, but one classroom assistant tells BBC News Online there need not be conflict in the classroom.

Sara Rutter is very much a mum - she has four children aged between five and 12 - and for the past year she has been assisting in a primary school in Scarborough, where she previously helped out on a voluntary basis.

"I hate the term Mums' Army," she said.

"But I can see fully why teachers feel like that."

Sara regards herself as part of a system of pupil support.

Her job involves helping just one child who has severe special educational needs.

Assistance

Thanks to the government's policy of "inclusion" there are many more such children in ordinary classrooms these days.

"Personally, my main role is to support the child," she said.

"But obviously that helps the classroom teacher as well."

She has a degree, in drama and the media, and hopes eventually to train as a teacher.

But her view is that classroom or teaching assistants are very much assistants.

Clear role

"I know there's a move to say that we are a threat to teachers but that's not the issue.

"Teachers do need support - but it is only support, and I think as classroom assistants we are aware of that.

"We are not trained to do their job therefore we don't do their job."

She is emphatic that everything she does is under the strict direction of a qualified teacher.

Communication

"I don't move without the teacher's say-so," she said. "I wouldn't be supporting her if I did anything else."

But equally she is not much taken with the idea of assistants' being used to lighten teachers' workloads by doing such things as photocopying and cleaning paint pots.

She thinks any potential for conflict can be resolved through communication, as the government seeks to expand the number of assistants in England's schools.

"Teachers and classroom assistants have been thrown into this and we need to work together and support each other - rather than feel undermined on either side."

See also:

21 Oct 02 | Education
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16 Jan 02 | Education
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