Teaching Assistants’ Scholarship Is A Drop In The Ocean

23 Apr 2012

£500,000 scholarship for teaching assistants working with special needs pupils whilst welcome is a “drop in the ocean” says GMB. Several hundred thousand school support staff help 1.6 million SEN pupils but this grant may only cover 250 course places and meanwhile other training has been cut.

GMB, the union for schools support staff, responded to a new Government scholarship scheme for school support staff working with children with special educational needs and/or disabilities.

The £500,000 SEN Support Scholarship will provide funding for selected school support staff to undertake degree-level and specialist training relevant to their job. The programme will fund 50 per cent of the total course costs up to a £2,000 ceiling. Applications for the first round will open on 30 April and close on 17 May.

Sharon Holder, GMB National Officer for Schools said: “I am pleased that the Government has finally begun to acknowledge the vital role played by school support staff in working with SEN and disabled pupils (see note 1). But the new scholarship is only a drop in the ocean because there are several hundred thousand school support staff providing essential help to over 1.6 million SEN pupils (see note 2). If each successful applicant were to take up the full £2,000 allocation the scholarship fund would only stretch to cover 250 support staff across the whole of England.

It is unrealistic to expect low-paid teaching assistants to find half of these expensive course fees from their own pockets. At the very least, we think the Government should ask schools to match-fund the money that it is putting in. The Department for Education says it wants to ‘incentivise’ support staff to undertake training, however we need to be clear that motivation is not the problem here. People working in schools are desperate for training but there is hardly any funding available. Our members tell us that training budgets have been slashed. We need a better training offer at both basic and advanced levels for support staff working with some of the most vulnerable children in our society.”


1) Announcing the SEN scholarship on Wednesday, Children’s Minister Sarah Teather said: “We know that support staff can make a real difference to the achievement of pupils with SEN and disabilities. They are never a substitute for a qualified teacher – but we know that when used effectively, they are vital to giving the most vulnerable pupils the support they need to get the most out of school.” See http://www.education.gov.uk/inthenews/inthenews/a00208206/sen-scholarship-scheme-launched.

2) Facts about Special Educational Needs:

Over 1.6 million children are identified as having SEN (20% of all pupils).

200,000 SEN children have a statement, while 1.4 million are at School Action or School Action Plus.

The most common type of SEN is:

•        for children under 7: speech, language and communication difficulties

•        for children aged 7 to 11: moderate learning difficulties

•        for children aged 12-17: behavioural, emotional and social difficulties

2.4% of boys and 0.9% of girls have a statement. Boys with a statement are most likely to have an autistic spectrum disorder. Girls with a statement are most likely to have moderate learning difficulties.