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Last Updated:  Monday, 7 April, 2003, 12:03 GMT 13:03 UK
'Super assistants' lead school changes
Classroom assistants
There will be another 50,000 classroom assistants in schools

There will be up to 20,000 "higher level classroom assistants" trained each year, says the government.

These high grade support staff - half-way between a teacher and an assistant - will be the driving force behind the government's plans to modernise the teaching profession.

School Standards Minister, David Miliband, has announced the latest round of proposals for consultation in the reform of teachers' conditions of employment.

And he has highlighted the importance of "higher level teaching assistants" who will be trained to supervise classes or work with individual pupils.

The Department for Education and Skills says that there will be capacity for 20,000 higher level assistants to be trained each year from 2005 to 2006.

Classroom assistants are already helping teachers with tasks such as listening to children read or taking on administrative tasks, such as photocopying.

And the new upper level of assistant will be expected to take on a role which is more directly involved in delivering lessons.

"Higher level teaching assistants offer not only real benefits for pupils in terms of individualised support, but also the chance to provide teachers with essential timetabled time for planning, preparation and assessment."

There are already around 200,000 support staff in schools, with another 50,000 to be recruited in the next few years.

This latest stage in changing the working lives of teachers follows a national agreement between the government and teachers' unions, signed in January.

Autonomy

The biggest teachers' union, the National Union of Teachers, has refused to sign up to this agreement - because it is opposed to allowing assistants to take classes without the supervision of teachers.

And last week, head teachers threatened to withdraw from the agreement because they say schools lacked funds to implement reforms.

But the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, which is part of the agreement, has welcomed changes which include a 38-hour annual limit on cover for absent teachers and the requirement for schools to pay regard to "work-life balance".

The "consultation package" presented on Monday includes details from the Teacher Training Agency (TTA) of the skills that will be expected of the higher level assistants.

This will include training to enable higher assistants to supervise whole classes or to work with groups or individual pupils

And it says that higher level assistants will be equipped to work "work with more autonomy than other school support staff", depending on how they are deployed by qualified teaching staff.

Funding challenge

There have been accusations that assistants will be used as a cheaper substitute for teachers - or as a way of filling gaps in staffing.

But Mr Miliband emphasised the separate roles of teachers and assistants.

"Teachers and teaching assistants are not interchangeable - teachers must make the lead contribution to teaching and learning.

"The revised draft regulations are clear that teaching assistants must operate under the direction and supervision of a qualified teacher."

And NASUWT general secretary, Eamonn O'Kane, says that the "regulations will ensure protection of the pedagogic role of the teacher, prevent job substitution and allow their work to be supported by this new category of teaching assistants".

The minister also announced a further 50 schools in England will have "training school" status (up to a total of 130 schools), which will mean that they will be able to provide training and professional development.

The Conservatives have challenged the announcement, saying that the proposed changes would not be practical unless problems with school funding were resolved.

"David Miliband seems to be ignoring the key fact that stands in the way of a deal on reducing teachers' workload: the government has failed to fund it," said the Shadow Education Secretary, Damian Green.




SEE ALSO:
Teacher workload deal signed
15 Jan 03  |  Education
What are classroom assistants?
12 Nov 01  |  Education
Teachers promised support staff
12 Nov 01  |  Education


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