Schools need teaching assistant standards

Government should let UNISON go ahead and publish professional standards

Following the government’s decision in October not to publish teaching assistant professional standards, UNISON wrote to Nick Gibb, minister for schools in England, saying that if the government won’t publish the standards they should let UNISON do so.

We were dismayed by the decision not to publish and pointed out that the Department for Education has recently issued professional standards for head teachers and school meals workers and encouraged the setting up of the College of Teaching, clearly signalling increased professionalism for some staff.

Under the last government UNISON set up a teaching assistant forum, to identify key priorities. The forum identified the need for professional standards and we began work with the educational charity the National Education Trust (NET) to produce them.

We kept the Department for Education informed of the work and were pleased when the government decided to set up a review of the professional standards last year. In the interests of the profession we suspended our work and invested our time in supporting our nominee on the review panel. We also fed into consultations and draft standards.

We were pleasantly surprised by the eventual results, particularly as we had worried about the tight timetable; however we knew what hard work had gone into them.

The decision by the government not to publish the standards sets us back 18 months. During this time UNISON and NET would have produced the standards. They would have been voluntary and schools could have chosen whether to have used them, but at least they would have existed.

The professional standards would fit well with UNISON’s recently issued guidance for school leadership teams, Career Framework and Continuing Professional Development for Teaching Assistants, jointly produced with NET. It would also add to the Education Endowment Foundation’s guidance Making Best use of Teaching Assistants, which EEF consulted UNISON on.

In this light UNISON has called on the minister to allow UNISON and NET to publish the standards, which will help improve the education of children and young people.


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