A third of classroom support staff in state schools say they take classes for absent teachers, ‘selling children short’ according to the ATL.
The ATL polled more than 1400 of its members working in state schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and found that:
- 32% of support staff took classes for absent teachers and 60% of these said they did the same work as fully qualified teachers
- 22% of support staff said they took more classes this year than last.
- Over a quarter of teaching assistants and almost half of higher level teaching assistants (HLTAs) said they were asked to cover lessons.
The ATL said that the rules allow teaching assistants to teach small groups of children when supervised by a qualified teacher, but not to teach whole classes or prepare teaching material. HLTAs should not be teaching whole classes; cover supervisors are employed to supervise classes while pupils complete work set by a teacher, the BBC reports.
The union quoted an HLTA at a secondary school: “I prepare, teach and mark at least four lessons for two year-7, bottom-set classes, and a year-8 set for at least three hours a week. It is teaching on the cheap.” A primary school teaching assistant added: “It is unfair that many teaching assistants are teaching classes in the absence of a teacher, and doing the same job as a teacher for much less money.”
A spokeswoman from the Department for Education said: “The rules are clear – they should not be teaching.”
Dr. Mary Bousted, ATL’s general secretary, claimed that schools are selling children short by using teaching assistants to take classes: “We are totally opposed to this exploitation of support staff who are being used as a cheap option to teachers. It is grossly unfair on them and on the children and their parents who rightly expect their children to be taught by qualified teachers,” she said.