Education & Family

Council improves offer to teaching assistants

classroom Image copyright DGLimages

Teaching assistants (TAs) in County Durham have been offered an improved compensation package in a dispute over term-time only wages.

The row surrounds a plan by the local council to pay its 2,700 TAs for 39 rather than 52 weeks of the year.

Durham County Council had offered a one-year compensation package. But, after a vote by councillors, this has been increased to two years.

Unions are now expected to ballot members on the offer.

The result is expected to be known no later than 29 September.

Jane Brown, Durham County Council cabinet member for corporate services, said: "This review of our teaching assistants' terms and conditions has been a hugely difficult process but one that we had a legal responsibility to deal with.

"This brings us in line with the majority of other councils who have already addressed this issue.

"The simple facts are that continuing with the existing terms and conditions is not possible due to the significant inequality and the associated financial risks of equal pay claims from other council staff.

"I sincerely hope that the outcome of the ballot is to accept and that affected staff will see a delay in the impact of these changes by a further 15 months, meaning that the vast majority of teaching assistants should see no reduction in earnings until April 2019."

According to the union Unison, 4,000 TAs at 70 schools in Derby were put on term-time only contracts in June.

Derby City Council says budgets are under pressure and there is no alternative but to implement the plan.

'Disgusted and upset'

After the vote by Durham County Council, teaching assistant Alethea Elliott-Wilson, 44, from Beechdale Nursery, Consett, said: "We're disgusted and upset. It's unbelievable that they want to bring us in line, with the greatest of respect, to jobs like cleaners and caretakers.

"Do they have to go to college and study and do professional development? We don't just assist, we teach, we cover classes and do lots of the planning.

"Lots of schools round here would have to close if it wasn't for the teaching assistants."

Angela Bowyer, 36, also a teaching assistant at Beechdale Nursery, said: "I have done this job for 18 years and after this cut I will end up on less than I started out on 18 years ago.

"A lot of colleagues are saying they will have to put their houses up for sale. And I could go and get a job stacking shelves in a supermarket and earn more money."

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