Support staff are teaching GCSEs, classroom leaders claim

Schools are increasingly using unqualified support staff to teach lessons, including GCSE maths and English, teachers have claimed.

Debbie Polwarth, lead member for support staff at the ATL teaching union, told the union’s annual conference she had heard of members being asked to carry out a range of tasks for which they were not qualified.

Earlier in the day, the conference heard that two in every five teachers were leaving the profession within a year.

Speaking in Liverpool this afternoon, Ms Polwarth said: “They are responsible for GCSE classes in maths and English.

“They are not teachers. Being told you have to deliver and be responsible for getting these children through their GCSE classes is untenable without proper training.

“The amount of support staff being used inappropriately across the country is growing ,” she said. “It’s all down to budget cuts. Schools [are] trying to make ends meet,” she added.

During the same session Julie Huckstep, an ATL member from Kent, said when a teaching assistant had to take a whole class, pupils who were entitled to support did not get it.

“When a supply teacher is employed, a TA can continue with his or her own support role while the pupils benefit from a fully trained teacher,” she said.

“Surely that has to be more beneficial to all concerned.”

Ms Huckstep added: “When we visit the GP, we don’t expect a practice nurse to be filling in. If a GP is absent, a locum GP is employed instead, allowing the nurse to continue with his or her own tasks.

“Locum teachers exist. We call them supply teachers. Why is the education sector allowed to be treated differently?”

The union passed a resolution raising concerns about the “misuse of support staff in schools to cover for teachers at short notice and for protracted periods”.

Meanwhile, the union decided not to back a proposal in support of industrial action over pay. A proposal from Hank Roberts, an ATL member from Brent, London, said the union should if necessary, take part in joint action” over pay. But members voted to pass an amended version from which the threat of industrial action was removed.

Related stories:

Invest in TAs – they’ll be worth it – 13 March 2015

Two in five new teachers quit within a year, union warns – 31 March 2015

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