Are Classroom assistants teaching on the cheap?

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The National Union of Teachers has warned that cash strapped schools are increasingly turning to classroom assistants to take classes in the place of teachers.

The NUT claims some school are teaching on the cheap in a bid to keep costs down as budgets are hit by public sector cuts, and have urged parents to ask schools who is teaching their child.

Schools were given permission to use higher level teaching assistants for short periods to lead classes under a national agreement that came into force in September 2005. It was designed to provide cover for teachers to spend 10% of their working hours on planning, preparation and assessment and for short-term sickness.

Under the agreement the assistants can provide “short term” cover, but the NUT says this loose definition can lead to abuse of the system. As a result, most local authorities advise this is restricted to three consecutive days.

Neil Foden, from the NUT, said: “Using teaching assistants to lead classes is increasing. Purely because of financial reasons and with budgets under huge pressure over the next couple of years this is only going to become more of a temptation. Financial pressures will mean that schools will use teaching assistants instead of supply teachers more often. This is teaching on the cheap.”