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2013 Local Government Service Group Conference
1 January 2013

Conference is alarmed and appalled by the article published by the Sunday Times on 2 June (and subsequently in other media outlets) reporting that the Treasury has been holding talks with the Department for Education about phasing out the role of teaching assistants as part of budget cuts in the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review.

This idea stems from a recent report by the right wing ‘think tank’ Reform. They used a misinterpreted statistic from an Institute of Education study to suggest that teaching assistants (TAs) have negligible impact on pupil attainment, even claiming that outcomes can be negative for pupils. Whilst noting that a summary of all the research available was based on limited evidence, Reform still propose that schools can achieve “better value for money” by axing TAs and increasing class sizes.

Conference notes that since publishing their original study the Institute of Education has sought to distance itself from simplistic interpretations and use of their data. The Institute has published further research and a book which highlight the vital role of Teaching Assistants, noting that the key to ensuring good results is linked to the correct training and deployment of TAs.

A recent UNISON report, ‘The Evident Value of Teaching Assistants’, included the results of a survey of school leaders, showing that 95% thought that TAs added value to their schools. TAs were appreciated for their vital roles and in particular their contribution as cover supervisors, when teaching pupils with special needs and their work with vulnerable children.

This government has a history of undermining the role of support staff. They have removed national funding and hidden on-line resources that supported the training of our members. They also abolished the School Support Staff Negotiating Body, which was set up to achieve equal and fair pay and conditions for all support staff.

Conference notes there are 232,000 TAs and the vast majority are women, often on Term Time only contracts and with average earnings per annum, below even the Government’s own low earnings definition.

Conference instructs the Service Group Executive to:

1)Reject the Reform report and issue a strong rebuttal pointing out in particular its limited scope and misuse of research;

2)Condemn all attempts by the Government and its supporters and apologists to use the Reform report or similar ‘arguments’ as cover for their agenda in education and wider austerity programme;

3)Start a high-profile campaign to defend and promote the role and contribution of Teaching Assistants in providing our children with quality education, and to resist such ideological attacks, that are only about saving money and not improving the education of our children and young people; on these predominantly women members.

4)Build alliances where possible with appropriate colleague trade unions, parent groups and other bodies to support the campaign.