Review panel set to consider status of teaching assistant role

New standards on the status of teaching assistants are to be drawn up by a review panel, the Department for Education (DfE) has announced.

The “status and professionalism” of the classroom assistant role will be set out by the review panel, chaired by Kate Dethridge, principal of Churchend Primary Academy, Reading, the DfE said.

The review is expected to report back to Nicky Morgan, the Secretary of State for Education, in spring 2015.

The DfE said that the new standards would help in the assessment of teaching assistants’ performance, and would also help steer the professional development of teaching assistants.

The new standards will replace the existing set of standards with a “clearer and more concise” version that would help ensure that schools use teaching assistants’ skills and expertise to best effect, the DfE said.

The review panel will be made up of teachers and teaching assistants, and will also feature representation from charitable foundation the National Education Trust.

Schools Minister David Laws said: “Good teaching assistants are essential to driving up standards in the classroom and helping students fulfil their full potential.

“Kate Dethridge and the expert panel supporting her will bring a wealth of experience to this review, which will help to ensure the continuing improvement of school standards under this government.”

Ms Dethridge said: “I welcome this opportunity to work with colleagues to write a set of standards to raise the status and professionalism of teaching assistants across our schools.

“We hope to ensure that the development of these standards will make a significant contribution to a self-improving, school-led system.”

The news was welcomed by UNISON, which represents over 150,000 classroom assistants.

Jon Richards, head of education and children’s services for UNISON said: “Only last year right-wing thinktanks and some in government were seeking to get rid of teaching assistants.

“Our campaign to defend this invaluable group of staff, and recent research showing that when deployed properly teaching assistants have a positive impact on children’s education, has changed the narrative.

“Wisely the DfE have recognised that if you improve the skills and professional standards of teaching assistants this will have a positive impact on education standards.”

The union will have representation on the panel, with Karen Jackson, a higher level teaching assistant and UNISON member among those carrying out the review.

Following the announcement, UNISON said that it would also be looking to ensure that the work of other “forgotten groups” of support staff was recognised by the DfE.

Responding to the announcement, Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt said: “School support staff – including teaching assistants – have been undermined and devalued by this Tory-led government.

“This government scrapped the national negotiating body, set up by the last Labour Government to work with professionals and to recognise the commitment and added value that school support staff bring.

“I know the value that school support staff – often the unsung heroes and heroines in our schools – can bring to raising school standards. That is why Labour will re-establish a school support staff negotiating body to deliver continued improvement in our schools and ensure a fair deal for support staff.”

Figures from the 2013 school workforce census show that there were 243,700 full-time equivalent teaching assistants, an increase of 4.9 per cent of the 232,300 employed the previous year.