NUT strike threat over classroom assistants

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The Independent Online

Britain's biggest teachers' union will threaten today to take industrial action in schools over the issues of using classroom assistants to teach lessons, and of tests to be taken by two million pupils aged seven, 11 and 14.

The action is expected to include strikes in schools later this term and the wrecking of national curriculum tests next spring.

Leaders of the National Union of Teachers warn that new teaching regulations - coming into force at the start of the new term this week - will open the way to the use of unqualified assistants to take classes in the months ahead.

Doug McAvoy, the general secretary of the NUT, said the union would back teachers who refused to work with unqualified staff. If they faced disciplinary action, the union could take strike action in support of them.

The new regulations would mean a far more widespread use of classroom assistants to take lessons than previously planned, Mr McAvoy said. A previous commitment to use a new category of highly trained classroom assistants to stand in had been abandoned. Instead, the Secretary of State for Education would have the power to extend their use.

"We cannot support the use of unqualified people to undertake teaching tasks," Mr McAvoy said. "To do so, we judge, is to threaten the professional status of teachers - something we've campaigned for over many years. We have always campaigned for an all-graduate profession."