Tuesday, 18 June 2013


When you have a child with special needs it’s hard to put a price on the value of teaching assistants.

But according to recent newspaper reports, the Treasury is looking to save money by reducing the number of TAs in classrooms. 

This report in the Sunday Times cites research by Reform, a right-of-centre think tank, which says it has found schools could ‘improve value for money by cutting the number of teaching assistants and increasing class sizes’. 

That’s a sentence that takes hold of your heart in an icy grip, isn’t it? 

I’m also not too happy with the sneering description of teaching assistants as a ‘mum’s army of classroom helpers’. Who do you think this is more insulting to - ‘mums’, or TAs?

The idea that classroom assistants are ‘just’ well-meaning parents bumbling along helping the little ones with their crayoning is condescending, anachronistic and just plain wrong.

My daughter has been helped by teaching assistants throughout her school life, firstly with designated one-to-one hours at mainstream school, and latterly as part of her classroom staffing set-up in her special school satellite class.

Her assistants have been dedicated, patient, enthusiastic, hard-working and skilled. They’ve also been trained to deal with everything a special needs child can throw at them. Sometimes literally.

They don’t do it for the money - believe me, I’ve been a school governor, and I’ve yet to see any teaching assistant earning anywhere near the supposed £17,000 average wage cited in many of the newspaper reports.

They deal with challenging behaviour on a daily basis. They get thumped, kicked, screamed at, and bitten. And they shake it off and go back for more, because they love helping ‘their’ kids. They provide practical, front-line support so that teachers can teach.

It’s becoming harder and harder to gain dedicated support for children with special needs at mainstream schools, and yet at the same time the emphasis on integration is perhaps as great as it has ever been. And now some policy twonks (I'm guessing some of whom benefited from small class sizes at private schools) want to ‘improve value’ by making class sizes bigger and getting rid of TAs.

Maybe someone can reassure me that teaching assistants with responsibility for special needs children will be unaffected by any cuts. 

Can someone do this? Please?

When you have a child with special needs it’s not just hard to put a price on the value of teaching assistants - it’s impossible.

Video is Alvin Cash & The Crawlers - Twine Time

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