A new career development framework for teaching assistants is available from UNISON and NET – the National Education Trust, but the union has expressed its dismay at the government’s continued delay in publishing matching professional standards.
Those standards had been due out in February after a review that was launched in October 2014. But the Department for Education delayed them stating that “it was a bit close to the election”.
Four months after that, there is still no sign of them, and UNISON head of education Jon Richards told Schools Week this month: “I have contacted the DfE on a number of occasions to find out when the standards will be published and we are still waiting.
“I just do not think this is top of their priorities at the moment, which is really sad for support staff.
“A lot of work has been done by everyone involved,” he added, “and it is hugely important we get these standards out there.
“It has become a political football, and I just do not know if ministers are interested anymore.”
The Department for Education review – which included UNISON member and higher-level teaching assistant Karen Jackson and Marc Rowland from NET – took over from a joint UNISON/NET focus group.
But the focus group did produce the career framework, which links the different levels of teaching assistants with the relevant qualifications and opportunities for training and continued professional development.
Career framework and continued professional development for teaching assistants is aimed at those who manage or support the professional development of teaching assistants in schools.
And while it is based around levels for teaching assistants, which apply in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, it may be of interest to schools and classroom assistants in Scotland.
UNISON national officer Jo Coates said that the delay in publishing the professional standards “has been a step back for a profession that has been largely neglected by the government since 2010”.
She vowed that “UNISON will continue to push for their publication, along with greater investment in training and development for all school support staff.
With this year’s publication of the Education Endowment Foundation’s report, Making the best use of teaching assistants, in February, and now UNISON and the NET’s career framework, professional standards are a missing link in the toolbox of continuing professional development for teaching assistants.”