Back our teaching assistants, Labour urged

Many of the 350,000 UNISON members working as education support staff are under threat, having been identified by the government and its friends as “easy targets”, the union’s Angela Rayner warned Labour delegates today.

Speaking at the party’s conference in Brighton, UNISON delegate Ms Rayner said that “right-wing think tanks such as Reform, who are influential with the government, are on a long-term campaign” to undermine the role of teaching assistants.

“They regularly attack state education and the workforce,” noted Ms Rayner.

“One of their dodgy reports claims that teaching assistants have little impact on pupil attainment.

“We know that’s rubbish.

“There is plenty of evidence to show that teaching assistants make a huge difference to children in schools.

UNISON’s survey of school leaders showed that 95% thought teaching assistants added value to their schools.”

And their work “is widely appreciated by parents and the wider public,” she added.

“Taking teaching assistants out of classrooms would be bad for pupils. Those with special needs will fall behind, and teachers will not have as much time for the rest of the classroom.”

Adding that her own son could only attend school because of the support of teaching assistants, Ms Rayner then asked: ”And what about the effect on the workforce?

“There are over 230,000 teaching assistants, the majority of whom are low paid women, just like me.

“So yet again it is the most vulnerable who are facing the brunt of this coalition’s austerity programme.

“But it’s not just teaching assistants they want to get at. They actually want to increase class sizes.

“They are open that their only aim is to save money – or rather, divert money to their so-called free schools

“They’re not bothered about families like mine.

“It’s no problem for them of course as they send their kids to private school, where class sizes are on average just 15 pupils.

“So conference, please be aware of the attack that is being made upon valuable staff in schools across the country,” she urged delegates.

“Be vigilant.

“Watch out for what’s coming.

“And be proud of the work that teaching assistants do to improve standards in our classrooms across the country.”

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