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Three Cheers for Teaching Assistants

Miranda takes a moment to stand up for teaching assistants. 

The government is concerned about quality in teaching and school leadership. One of their proposed  answers to this is to do away with what the Daily Mail is snottily calling the ‘Mum’s Army’ of Teaching Assistants, saving vast amounts of £££ and ensuring that teaching assistants are given restraining orders so they get nowhere near the front of a classroom.

Oh much maligned teaching assistants. They really can’t win, can they? Either they are rather lowly people who are handy with a staple gun and good for little else; or they’re semi-literate interlocutors, who are pushing their noses into the teaching trough to gobble up a bit of the action, leaving the teachers hungry.

Theirs’ is one of the lowest paid, least regarded jobs,  populated by some of the most diverse and interesting people you could ever hope to meet.  True, some are Mums who have never left their local area (so they know parents, they know families, they know children and they understand what is happening on the ground). Others are would-be teachers – oh horrors! (so they are more ambitious, and more prepared than most of us to ‘have a go’) What does this say about the Mum’s army?…..Maybe something about resliance, hard work and an honest dedication to their colleagues, their team and their boss – are those such terrible lessons to teach our children?

Some of the rest of the ‘army’ are experts in delivering learning for children with special educational needs (what useless sellotape wielding folks, I hear you say. What!? How have these pariahs been allowed to come into direct one-to-one contact, after specific and tailored professional training, with children most in need of personalised learning? What ingenious new ways will they think of next for wasting tax payers money, eh?)

In case you are getting as lost as I am in the big scoops of sarcasm, I’m trying to say that teaching assistants are not a waste of money, they are under-payed and under-valued most of the time. Teaching assistants are not an army of Mums who want an easy ride – otherwise they would refuse point blank to take on a teaching role normally completed by someone who is paid twice as much. Teaching assistants are not a burden on the system but a crucial blue sky piece of the jigsaw for families and children who need more than a 30:1 ratio. Now where’s my staple gun?

We have recently launched a white-paper on decision-making in the Primary Teacher/Teaching Assistant relationship. Find out more and download your copy here

Tags: Miranda, Manchester, NQT, supply

Category: Australian Teachers

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