I am very pleased to hear that my hon. Friend’s daughter is going into the profession. I cannot speak highly enough of the talents of the teaching assistants and support staff who work in schools. They are desperately needed, and we do not want to see anybody losing teaching assistants.
Just this morning, a headteacher who knew that we were having this debate got in touch with me, saying:
“At my school, budget cuts along with having to fund the first £6k for SEN pupils has forced us into a deficit budget (the first ever) and consequently into a whole school restructure situation which has left us unable to fund any general classroom support. I have had to make redundancies which has curtailed our ability to provide the broad and varied curriculum that OFSTED are now demanding. We are only able to offer teaching assistant support to pupils with EHCP’s. I have also had to cut allowances to dedicated and hardworking teachers (who have always gone the extra mile for pupils at my school) leaving them undervalued and demotivated after years of exemplary service which has kept our school one of the most consistent and respected schools in our town.”
The head continued:
“I am only asking for enough money to effectively run a school in the 21st century that supports the needs of ALL pupils not just SEN and deprived children. After all shouldn’t education offer fairness of opportunity to all?”
Minister, I am sick of empty words. I am sick of the fact that so many of my friends in the profession feel crushed. I am sick of those dedicated professionals reporting to me that their mental health is suffering and that they may leave the profession they love. I am sick of the lousy pay that they are expected to work for, while the work piles on. Most of all, I am sick of the Government’s abject disregard for the education of the many children in this country who do not attend a fee- paying school. As a parent, I am sick of the fact that those who care for and nurture my children are so demoralised. I am furious that future generations are being let down so catastrophically. Test results and attainment are a small part of what makes a successful school.