Growth of Mums' Army provokes protests by union

Click to follow

The Government's plans to expand the work of teaching assistants in schools has led to a Mums' Army of unqualified staff who threaten to damage classroom standards, a teaching union warned yesterday.

The Government's plans to expand the work of teaching assistants in schools has led to a Mums' Army of unqualified staff who threaten to damage classroom standards, a teaching union warned yesterday.

Meanwhile, untrained graduates are being left in charge of classes because of the shortage of qualified teachers, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers' annual conference in Scarborough heard.

Stephen Timms, the School Standards minister, was given a mixed reception when he said teaching assistants would never replace teachers. He was jeered when he said ministers were committed to consultation on secondary school reforms but applauded for a promise to do more to tackle bad behaviour in schools.

Classroom assistants must never become "junior teachers" and only well-qualified teachers should be allowed to teach, delegates argued.

The Changing Role of the Teacher, a report by the union's executive presented to delegates yesterday, concluded that an expansion of the Mums' Army would be "disastrous".

Terry Bladen, a national executive member, said: "We've got to be careful that teaching assistants do not become junior teachers. Their job is important but it's not teaching. The Government certainly seems to be doing its best to blur the demarcation lines."

The conference debate followed a pledge by Estelle Morris, Education Secretary, to recruit 20,000 support staff and 10,000 new teachers before the next election.

In a speech last November, Ms Morris said assistants should play a bigger role in the classroom to allow teachers to spend less time on administrative duties. The proposals fuelled a heated debate on the future roles of teaching assistants and teachers.

Roger Kirk, another national executive member, said: "She [Ms Morris] is beginning to say these assistants can take whole classes. That presents us with serious problems."

The remarks are sure to be seized upon by classroom assistants, who are still smarting from comments made by Nigel de Gruchy, the union's general secretary, who steps down this week. Mr de Gruchy attracted the fury of the Government and Unison, the public services union, in November when he was accused of comparing assistants to "pig-ignorant peasants". He claimed he had been misinterpreted but was forced to apologise.

Earlier, the conference unanimously supported a motion calling for government action on teacher shortages.

Dave Battye, a national executive member, said the turnover rate among new teachers was alarming and staff shortages were so acute that schools were "poaching" staff from each other. Simon Whitney, a teacher from Essex, said staff turnover in the county had reached one third last year. Untrained graduates were being used to plug gaps left by teacher vacancies.

Comments