A blog for students on the FDLT and BALT courses at the University of Northampton

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National Debate on the value of Teaching Assistants!


Yesterday MP Alex Cunningham led a Westminster Hall debate on the value of teaching assistants in schools.

wh The TES reported on this debate:

“The government has “no plans or any powers” to cut thousands of teaching assistants’ jobs, education minister Liz Truss has claimed.

She said there was a “misconception” about the future of teaching assistants (TAs) following reports suggesting that jobs would be cut to save money and to allow more teachers to be hired.

Replying to a Westminster Hall debate today, Ms Truss said: “I can absolutely assure you and your colleagues that neither the Department for Education (DfE) nor the government has any plans or any powers to do this.”

Media reports last year said that the Treasury was looking to cut the DfE’s budget by axeing school support staff. In June, the right-leaning think tank Reform said that schools could improve value for money by reducing the number of TAs and increasing class sizes.

Unison, the union representing the majority of school support staff, was so concerned about the prospect of huge job losses that it launched a campaign to support TAs.

Ms Truss said that the government wanted to do more to help schools get the best from them. Guidance and case studies would be issued to schools this year.

More than 200,000 assistants were employed in 2012, up from 97,000 in 2005, MPs heard. Their work includes improving pupils’ literacy and numeracy skills, helping children with special and complex needs, and reducing teachers’ stress and improving morale, the minister said.

“All of us want to see a highly-trained, highly-skilled teacher and teaching assistant workforce – that is our aim,”  Ms Truss added.

She said that the best results were achieved by headteachers who were given the freedom to use their resources but were also inspected and subjected to “external accountability”.

Schools must ensure the skills, background and qualifications of a TA match their needs and are deployed according to their expertise, she said.

Kevin Brennan, shadow education minister, told the debate that it had been reported that the Treasury and the DfE were considering getting rid of classroom assistants to save around £4 billion a year.” (Harrison, 2014, lines 1 – 32)

whdCaptureYou can read a transcript of the full debate in the Commons Hansard; you can watch it on Parliament TV and explore the topics of teaching or schools more fully at this link – transcript, TV and further info

Was your MP at this debate? Do you know what your MP’s attitude is to the value of teaching assistants?


Harrison, D. (2014) ‘There are no plans to cut teaching assistants’ insists education minister Liz Truss. TES. March 18th. [online] Available from: http://news.tes.co.uk/b/news/2014/03/18/39-government-has-no-plans-to-cut-teaching-assistants-39-insists-liz-truss.aspx [Accessed 19/3/14]

Author: Jean

Senior Lecturer, Education at the University of Northampton. Admissions Tutor for the Foundation Degree Learning and Teaching.

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