Imagine if there were a quarter of a million people working with the most vulnerable children in our school system and yet receiving some of the lowest pay, working on insecure contracts that don’t include holiday pay and facing incredibly low pensions.
We don’t have to imagine. This is the situation for many teaching assistants across England’s schools.
In a rare nod to the group, last October the schools minister David Laws – working under current education secretary Nicky Morgan – announced a working group that would increase the status and professionalism of teaching assistants by creating a set of standards for their role. It wasn’t much, but it was something.
The standards are now written and while they are not much more than a set of guidelines suggesting a right to training and professional development, the government has suddenly said it won’t release them. Why? That’s not clear. Apparently the government looked at “all the evidence”, including extra that it asked for after the election and that we are not party to, and decided that keeping the document hidden on a computer in the department was better than pressing “send” and letting the rest of the world see it.
Not only is this insulting to the experts who worked to write the document, it’s also a kick in the stomach for the teaching assistants whose lot desperately needs improving. And a perfect way to undermine the other ten expert groups the government has set up – eight of which are still yet to report.
If we can’t trust the government to publish the report of the first, then how can we be sure it won’t hide others too?
Nicky Morgan has repeatedly said that she wants to listen to the profession. Just don’t expect her to share what she finds.