Single Status for Cumbria Teaching Assistants
One of few the laudable legacies from the last government was the objective of ensuring equal pay across equivalent jobs and genders. This was enshrined in the “Single Status” legislation. As ever the devil has been very much in the detail and all the councils across England have spent the last few years trying to navigate their way through the process in the hope of implementing it in such a way that they achieve fairness and avoid too many law suits.
In Cumbria in the area of Education this process is nearing it’s conclusion. Unfortunately right now it is looking like an the proverbial impending train wreck. The main issue is regarding the pay for Teachin Assistants in schools. In summary historically many of these hard working and invaluable people have been paid on the same basis as teachers – in other words on a 52 week a year contract with the same holiday entitlement. Under the new legisaltion and classification they have been told they must now shift to a term time only contract with in fact more hours and less holidays.
All very practical given the current climate you might think, and of course putting them in line with other clerical and support staff in schools and elsewhere in the public sector. However in reality for certain levels of teaching assistants in Cumbria (so called “Senior Teaching Assistants”) what this currently means in terms of salary is a drop of in the region of 30% in their basic level of pay. Even for the coalition this is a ludicrous and overly harsh cut and surely one which is likely to provoke more protest, outrage and legal action than a more moderate approach.
But surely this is fair?
Well actually on several levels one can happily argue that this change to their working practices is both unfair and possibly illegal. For a start these people all have current contracts that entitle them to the same hours and holidays as teachers. Given the level of responsibility many of them undertake and the work involved this seems utterly sensible. They joined the profession on this basis so how “fair” (or indeed legal) is for the council to suddenly drasticaly alter their contract. Also given the increasing reliance on teaching assistants in classrooms then there is even more reason to treat them as “junior” teachers rather than grade them at a lower level than school janitors (which they are btw – nothing against janitors but you get the point).
So what’s the answer?
So in my humble opinion either you change the contracts for all staff in schools, ie including teachers, to be term time only (now that really will get people out on the streets), or you leave the teaching assistants as they are. Or if you do want to change it, change it for new teaching assistants and leave the existing ones on their current contracts. This is what other councils have sensibly decided to do.
Either way to introduce a policy which by default reduces the salary of a large percentage of the overworked and seemingly undervalued 3,500 teaching assistants in Cumbria by 30% at a stroke is obviously a nonsense – so come on Cumbria – sort it out…..