In schools across the UK, teaching assistants present math and literacy lessons and grade class work and earn only £50 ($77.5 U.S.) per day—about half of what “supply” or full-time teachers are paid, according to BBC news. Assistants also serve as cheap cover in case of teacher absences, which can mean “putting people in front of children who may not have the right qualifications or experience to do this,” says Christine McAnea, head of education for Unison, the UK’s largest public sector union.
Currently no guidelines exist for the role of the teaching assistant, leaving their responsibilities to the discretion of their headteacher. Rosemary Plummer, a Unison representative, has heard from 40 London teaching assistants who expressed concern for being asked to reach beyond their qualifications. Plummer says assistants are being used as “cut-price teachers,” and she adds, “It’s very to easy to use teaching assistants to lower rates of pay— it would cost an awful lot to bring in a supply teacher.”
Unions are working with schools and the government to clarify the job description.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.