Durham County Council yesterday (16th May 2016) voted to make big changes to all Teaching Assistant contracts throughout the County. The proposal will mean all TAs contracts will be terminated and new terms & conditions will be introduced.
57 councillors voted to approve the proposal to make the changes to contracts, while 18 voted against and there were 4 abstentions.
40 Labour councillors were not in attendance of the meeting, which prompted Councillor Owen Temple to add that it was a “sad day for democracy”.
Lib Dem Councillors Owen Temple and Councillor Amanda Hopgood, Durham Independent Group Councillor Peter May and Independent Councillor Alex Watson were all against imposing the new contracts.
Currently, the majority of teaching assistants are paid to work 37 hours a week, but they are required to work just 32.50 hours of this per week. Teaching assistants are paid a salary for 52 weeks a year although they work only during school term time. Teaching assistants affected would receive a compensatory payment equivalent to one years loss of salary. Unison has said there will be a pay cut of up to 23%. Teaching assistants will lose around £200.00 – 400.00 per month and drive some of them into poverty.
Many TAs have expressed their thoughts on social media, with one TA writing, “ … we often go beyond the regular working hours, helping out in extra curricular activities and working hard to provide the children of County Durham with the much needed extra attention they so dearly require to succeed”.
Another TA wrote, “I can’t work overtime or do flexible time or take holidays that are 40% cheaper in term term other council staff can! I love my job and the kids I support and feel like the council think my job is inadequate. I believe with the salary cut Durham County Council won’t attract committed, hard working happy TAs.”
Many teaching assistants are said to be already looking for alternative TA roles in neighbouring Counties.
Strike action among Durham County TAs is expected with Unison said to be lodging a formal dispute with the Council.
Have your say? What do you think these changes will mean for Children, Teaching Assistants, and Education as a whole in County Durham.