This young man, it should be noted, takes home about £1,000 a month after tax. This paltry pay in no way reflects the responsibilities he is being given by the school.
This is, unfortunately, not an isolated example of exploitation. My email inbox is filling up with more horror stories as the weeks go by. I recently received an email from a member whose daughter-in-law is a classroom teaching assistant. She wrote: “Her contract is constantly being changed along with her hours and conditions. New contracts are handed out like toffee. I don’t think anyone is taking the situation seriously, and most of these poor TAs are fearful of losing their jobs. My daughter-in-law is a woman who has given her all for 20 years and who loved her job. She is at present looking for other work outside the education sector. (By the way, the other evening she was marking books at 7pm! Her take home pay is £800 per month. For Monday she has a presentation to prepare and an assessment to get ready for a meeting with the head.) This woman gets outstanding at her assessments and outstanding from Ofsted. Just to finish, this week she has covered eight lessons with no one in the room with her. She is not a teacher!”
Let’s not beat about the bush here – these classroom teaching assistants are being exploited. Too many school leaders, increasingly concerned about balancing their school budgets, are misusing their classroom support assistants, and are making unreasonable and unrealistic demands upon them, including making them take on a teaching role in the school. Many classroom assistants have teaching qualifications; others have degrees. They are highly qualified, but they are not employed, nor remunerated as, teachers. They do not want to teach (otherwise they would be training as, or working as, teachers).
I have every sympathy with school leaders who are facing a perfect storm of crises – in teacher recruitment, teacher retention and rapidly increasing pupil numbers. But my sympathy does not extend to school leaders exploiting education professionals by expecting them to undertake work for which they are not paid and which is not in their job description.
And my final point: in the end, stretching staff in this way will affect pupils, particularly those who need extra support so they can make the most of the opportunities offered by school. Teaching assistants who are teaching classes are not available to support teachers, or to give one-to-one or small group support, which is, for the most part, just what they are employed to do.
Posted: 18th July 2016