Fury over teaching assistant pay cuts

Angry teaching assistants have penned furious letters to education bosses saying proposed cuts in their wages will hit vulnerable children.

Tracey Gray

Angry teaching assistants have penned furious letters to education bosses saying proposed cuts in their wages will hit vulnerable children.

Norfolk County Council is amending the terms and conditions of its staff under the nationwide Modern Reward Strategy and that will mean pay cuts for school support assistants.

The council says the changes will make things fairer and more transparent as many of those seeing pay rises include women or those in lower paid jobs.

But County Hall has been sent almost 40 letters from the Clare Special School in Norwich, with teaching assistants, teachers and parents at the school all protesting about the plans.

One of the letters states: “The proposal will make it harder to retain and recruit people to work in special needs schools, and destroy the motivation and morale of people already working hard for vulnerable children who use the special schools service. There is now no incentive for us to pursue a career in special education in a non-teaching role.”

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The letter also asked if the pay was cut and staff quit who would take over jobs such as taking children to the toilet, administrating medicines, feeding, pastoral care, pushing wheelchairs, and carrying out physical therapy - all currently done by teaching assistants.

In November, the Evening News reported how assistants from Harford Manor School had written a letter to the council warning that the cuts will ultimately mean vulnerable children suffer.

Under the proposals up to 2,246 staff will have to take a pay cut including around 400 support staff working in special schools.

The council sent out letters detailing the changes last month ahead of a four week consultation period.

If approved the measures will come into force next May although those seeing a pay cut will have their pay protected for a further 12 months.

Paul Adams, director of corporate resources at Norfolk County Council, said: “This has been a mammoth task but I strongly believe the time it has taken to come up with structure which is simple to understand easy to administer fair and affordable has been well worth it.

“We wanted to be sure that the results will see us well placed in the local and national job markets help us to recruit retain and motivate the skilled people we need to deliver excellent services and I believe we have achieved that aim.

“I recognise this will cause disappointment among those affected but would stress that we have pay protection in place until at least March 2010 because we recognise staff have financial commitments and as a good employer we want to give time to make any adjustments which are necessary."

Do you have a schools story? If so contact Evening News education reporter Tracey Gray on 01603 772418 or email tracey.gray@archant.co.uk