A Review of The ATL Teaching Assistant Findings
Working Hours and Conditions
Support staff are working more than 21hrs per week (86%) and undertaking additional hours (70%) which is due to workload demands (67%). It is very likely (74%) that support staff do not get paid for additional hours which have increased compared to last year (68%). Suggesting that support staff are taking on ownership and professional responsibility for their performance within school.
The additional working hours is related to more demands from students with behavioural or educational needs (74%) which is likely to be related to the statutory requirements of the inclusion policy, along with the increase diagnosis of students additional learning needs. Although 49% of support workers indicated that the additional working hours were due to taking on extra duties and responsibilities.
The employment trend suggests that most support workers have contracts which mirror the school timetable and offer few additional hours outside of the timetabled day. However, 52% of support staff are on a yearly contract but the survey does not make it clear to the nature of the contract regarding pro-rata payment.
Nearly all support workers have a contract and job description (91%) but only 25% indicated that their job description was reviewed annually. Suggesting that the support workers performance management is not directly related to the terms and conditions outlined in their contract. Although many schools may use a generic specification to allow for flexibility within the support worker provision as 60% of support workers said that the job description broadly represented their average working day. However, there is a group of support workers (35%) who said that the job description does not reflect their current roles and responsibilities.
In terms of wages and pay agreements only 18% of support workers saw an increase in wage last year and very few support workers (16%) were paid an “enhanced rate” for undertaking additional duties such as lesson cover. Indicating that school management sees the provision of colleague (support worker) cover as part of the roles and responsibilities of a support worker.
Staff Training And Continued Professional Development (CPD)
Support workers stand a 50/50 (51%) chance of receiving an induction programing suggesting that schools are not delivering the required health and safety knowledge and skills to be both safe and maintain a safe workplace for staff and students. It is also likely that support workers do not understand or are unaware of whole polices which can be highlighted by the fact that 62% of support workers said that they did not know if their school had a rare cover policy.
Most support workers are paid for inset day (83%) but these often fall within the normal timetabled day (75%). With specific reference to CPD related to the support worker’s role, again they stand a 50/50 (53%) chance of attending offsite CPD. Suggesting that schools are dependent on collective knowledge and skill sets offered by internal staff.
This approach to CPD could lead to a stagmentation in skills, knowledge and awareness of policy changes within the support team, reducing the quality of intervention and developing a sense of isolation. This is support by the fact that 26% of support workers only received in house CPD and a further 28% had not asked for CPD. Indicating that support either do feel that they are able to access CPD or see not reason to undertaking CPD. Furthermore, 20% of support workers were told that there was no budget for CPD.
Qualifications and Awards
There are very few support workers who do not have a formal qualifications (13%) and most hold (31%) a NVQ level three award. However, 35% of support workers hold qualifications between a foundation degree and the degree equivalent award. This suggests that 66% of support workers have qualification at A’level or higher. However, this does not translate into academic capacity as few support workers (10%) planned to take on line manager roles (3%) or become a teacher (7%). To support this 35% of support workers said that they were happy with their current role and position but 30% indicated that they would be happy to progress within their current job role. This makes internal policies and support workers access to CPD critical.
Most school (85%) have a performance management system in place and of these 13% are based on performance related pay which represents a move towards support staff accountability. To support this move 45% of support workers said that the school had a policy on lesson observations for support workers and 60% said that they had been observed by the senior leadership team within a whole class situation (87%) but most (64%) indicated that this was with a small group. This highlights the critical need for support workers CPD and access to good pedagogical practice.
To quantify this point 71% of support workers have been in a classroom during an Ofsted lesson observation. If the support worker does not have the correct skills to achieved the expectation of the ofsted criteria for a good lesson then the teacher who is being observed will gain an unsatisfactory lesson grading. This will be reflected in the schools overall Ofsted grade. However, 59% of support workers feel that teachers are unskilled at deploying them within the classroom suggesting that support workers are underused and underperforming.