TA standards ‘nothing to do with us’, says Gibb – as unions publish report

Government-commissioned standards for teaching assistants are finally being released 15 months after they were due, but only on the condition it is “clear” the report has nothing to do with the Department for Education.

As Schools Week exclusively revealed last October, the department refused to publish the standards that describe training and responsibility expectations for teaching assistants (TAs).

The review was commissioned during the coalition government by David Laws, a Liberal Democrat MP who was then schools minister.

An expert group made up of schools professionals submitted a 13-page report last February.

After Laws lost his seat last May and a new Conservative government was formed, Nick Gibb replaced him as schools minister. Five months later Gibb announced the report would not be published.

At the time, none of the 12 members of the expert group knew of the decision. Many told Schools Week of their disappointment and anger.

The report was leaked to Schools Week and published on our website to allow TAs and school leaders to view the standards as submitted to the government.

Now, eight groups – including the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), Unison and the National Education Trust – have reviewed the document and will release it today.

The non-mandatory standards come with a caveat that they are not to be associated with the government, despite the government requesting them to be drawn up.

Jon Richards (pictured), head of education at Unison, which represents more than 150,000 TAs, said: “We have lost two years over this, mainly due to the internal machinations of the DfE.


“I still cannot understand why they didn’t publish them. The standards are still extremely valuable and show how important TAs are.”

In a letter to Richards, Gibb said: “The department does not wish to publish the standards and, as they do not belong to the department, it is not for us to give others permission to publish them.

“Any organisation minded to publish the standards should be clear that they do not have the status of departmental guidance.”

The standards also have been reviewed by the London Leadership Strategy, Maximising TAs, Paula Bosanquet, from the University of East London, and Maria Constantinou, a schools-based practitioner.

The 2014 school workforce census shows there are 255,100 full-time equivalent TAs, an increase of 4.8 per cent on 2013.

Russell Hobby, NAHT general secretary, said: “School leaders will welcome this publication, which helps to clarify and solidify the role of teaching assistants as a profession.”

Reports from two further working groups – those looking at teachers’ professional standards and teacher training – have yet to be released by the DfE, despite being submitted at Easter.

Schools Week understands their publication is delayed until after the EU referendum on June 23.

The professional standards for teaching assistants can be viewed in full here.


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