Four out of five classroom assistants earn less than pounds 7,000 a year for working up to 25 hours a week, says a study from the National Foundation for Education Research. Their promotion prospects are poor and many have to pay for their training. But they are playing an increasingly important role in the Government's efforts to raise standards, says Unison, Britain's biggest union, which commissioned the research.
Tony Blair announced recently that the number of classroom assistants is to be increased to 77,000.
The research points out that the traditional role of the classroom assistant is changing. Most no longer spend their time clearing up the paint pots or cutting out shapes for the maths lesson. More than three-quarters are involved in teaching or working with small groups of pupils. Nearly four out of 10 teach or counsel pupils outside the classroom. Most are white women in their thirties and just over half have permanent contracts.
The survey report is based on questionnaires from 767 assistants in 548 schools.