GMB, the union for school support staff including teaching assistants, commented on new guidance for schools from the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) on “Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants”. As part of the guidance the EEF recommends that “schools should provide sufficient time for teaching assistant training and for teachers and for teaching assistant to meet out of class to enable the necessary lesson preparation and feedback”.
Avril Chambers, GMB National Officer for schools staff, said “Teaching assistants could certainly avail of more time within their working day to access training opportunities and liaise with teachers. However we think schools should be able to accommodate this through careful timetabling, rather than seeking to adjust teaching assistant working hours as the Education Endowment Foundation proposes. There is a need for more funding for training teaching assistants, not just more time. The funding now available for support-staff training is close to zero.
There have been cuts to training budgets as well as cuts and freezes to teaching assistants pay and conditions, including demotion to lower grades. Many teaching assistants have been recruited on, or downgraded to, the lowest teaching assistant pay level while carrying out duties well above this level. That is why we urgently need a broader package of measures for school support staff including funded training opportunities and a robust national pay and career development framework.
The EEF report picks up on the latest evidence that teaching assistants deliver noticeable improvements to pupil attainment. It is a pity the EEF does not give this emerging evidence as much prominence as it does the earlier findings of the Deployment and Impact of Support Staff (DISS) project. One thing that rarely gets quoted from the DISS project is its recommendation that schools should ensure that the goodwill of teaching assistants is not abused and that teaching assistant and other support staff are fairly rewarded for the work they do. This message is more important today than ever.”