Classroom assistants stand in for teachers

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.

If you are a classroom assistant or HLTA do you get asked to teach whole classes? If you’re a teacher, what do you think of support staff standing in for you when necessary? Is it ‘selling children short’?

12 thoughts on “Classroom assistants stand in for teachers

  1. Hello,
    I work in a year 5 class along with the class teacher, I have got a degree in learning support and I don’t mind taking a class when asked. It is experience for when I finally do my final hons degree , it will all be helpful. What I do mind about though it is getting more and more frequent especially when the head etc know the class teacher is going to be off they don’t ask they just expect it.
    Also the amount of groups you are expected to run is a joke!
    I have 5 groups a week between 840-900 everyday then during assembly another x5 weekly then during teachers PPA another maths group for three and a half hours , not mentioning the ones in the afternoon.
    Rant over !!
    Don’t mind every now and again but as I said more and more are expected and we get paid the same amount.

  2. Hi. I was a teaching assistant for 6 months and I had regular covers for teachers ppa time. This year they changed my contact and I’m hlta but I do the same job as a teacher – I plan and deliver lessons 5 days a week to a class of twenty-something in ks1. I do better job than nqts as I know school’s rules, routines and policies. But I will not be employed as a teacher. I’m cheaper as hlta.

  3. Hi. I was a teaching assistant and I had regular covers for teachers ppa time. This year they changed my contact and I’m hlta but I do the same job as a teacher – I plan and deliver lessons 4 days a week to a class of twenty-something in ks3. I do better job than nqts as I know school’s rules, routines and policies. But I will not be employed as a teacher. I’m cheaper as hlta.

  4. In a LOT of cases, the “unqualified” classroom assistant is a far superior teacher than the qualified buffoon they are substituting for. I have personally witnessed classroom assistants doing one-to-one coaching (in reading and arithmetic mostly) and doing it far better than the incumbent teacher could ever hope to.

    Stop condemning classroom assistants. A huge number of them are doing far better jobs than so-called “qualified” teachers who they have to stand in for.

  5. I had to cover at least 3 days a week in my last job. I wasn’t left any planning or even expected to teach, but seeing the children were losing valuable teaching time, I tried to do my research and prepared literacy and maths lessons for them as best as I could.
    Luckily in my current job, the school would never leave the children without their learning.
    Teaching assistants are being exploited, even those who aren’t asked to cover. They still have to come into school at 8am or even earlier sometimes, and leave well after 4pm. But yet our salary is still part time for only 28 hours. We can’t complain because it happens in every school.
    And yet, Mr Gove seems to think we are useless and wants to get rid of us altogether!

  6. I am a level 3 TA and cover classes at least once a week. I plan and deliver my own interventions for children who are on IEPs, not making progress and EAL.
    The HLTAs at our school cover numerous lessons daily, quite often with no planning prepared for them at all.

  7. I am an HLTA, I teach for one full day a week as we have a NQT (TA for another 16 hrs). I plan, deliver, mark and assess science. I have been doing this for six years. I love science and want the children to get interested too. As in all things there are good classroom assistants and poor ones, just the same for teachers! More worrying is the fact that Mr Gove seems not to know what he is talking about, perhaps he should spend more time in the classroom and talking to us.

  8. I agree with Alistair (first comment) I’m an experienced TA of 15 years, last 5 of which is with HLTA status. I’ve been asked by HT’s for the last 7 years to cover whole classes, which I properly ‘teach’, as it makes managing the classroom much easier than just standing around ‘supervising’ – and as I achieved the standards for HLTA, classroom management does not worry me or make me stressed in any way. I am currently more experienced and effective in a class teaching than 50% of the trained teaching staff (my own H.Teacher’s words, not mine!) as 50% of the teachers are inexperienced NQT’s, so judge for yourself!

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