Oh dear, Gove’s at it again, teacher bashing is his natural pastime it seems.
Now he wants to take all our class room teaching assistants away because one report says that they aren’t value for money. Typically, this is another instance of Gove picking up a piece of paper and immediately jumping up and down with a new idea without taking the time to think a little deeper or ask anyone who might know a little more about it. Education deserves more than this; our children deserve more time and thought going into the decisions made about their learning.
What Mr Gove has missed is the qualitative aspect here that would stare most intelligent people in the face. He has jumped on a small fact, like he so often does, and rode it like a wave crashing onto the increasingly turbulent shores of education. The fact is that, yes, if teaching assistants are sat at the back of a class filing paper and washing paint pots then they are not value for money. However, this has not happened, nor would be allowed to happen, in my school, nor a single school I know for as far back as I can remember. Surprisingly, head teachers don’t want to spend money on people who don’t effect learning; indeed, they want value for money just like any leader would.
If Gove took the time to investigate the positive effect TAs can have on learning, then put forward a proposal to ensure all TAs are employed on this basis, this would be insightful and effective. Believe me, teaching assistants who are managed well and know how to effect learning make a massive difference.
The fact is, that since special schools have all been closed down and mainstream class rooms must facilitate any number of children with special needs, while at the same time local authorities are providing less and less funding for assistance for these children, the class room is not the same anymore. A teacher can not teach 30 children effectively with on average 10% of them being special needs or unable to work independently like their peers. No matter what any manipulated statistics tell you, ask any teacher in a state school, this is the reality.
Teachers have a responsibility to direct and coach teaching assistants so that they are effective and cause learning and progression in each lesson. Teachers want this themselves and most actively seek it. Those teachers who sit back and allow TAs to file and clean up in lesson times, are failing the children they teach as much as Gove is; however, I don’t know any teachers like this. I do know that if you take teaching assistants away, children will suffer and learning will decline. Teachers will be unable to cope with yet another set of pressures and they will leave.
What aspect of teaching Gove attacks next is anyone’s guess, but it’s looking more and more likely that teaching will become a profession people stay in for three to five years, burn out and leave. This will be his legacy.