Angry parents have slammed a school for leaving support staff in charge of a classroom for weeks on end.
Parents at Ribbleton Avenue Infant School in Preston are up in arms over the continued use of teaching assistants to cover for a year two teacher who has been off sick for several months.
Initially the school employed a supply teacher but over the past three weeks lessons prepared by another Key Stage one teacher have been delivered by a teaching assistant, with the help of two others.
Teaching assistants are allowed to help qualified staff but they are not expected to be in overall charge for significant periods. The school says the situation is only short term, but will operate at least until Easter. Angry parents say their children’s education is suffering just weeks before their Sats’ tests.
One mum, who declined to be named to protect her seven year old, said: “The school has sent out a note saying the class is being run by a higher level teaching assistant and two other assistants. The facts are there is no qualified teacher in that class, teaching our children. When parents send their children to school we expect, and have a right to expect, our children to be taught by a properly qualified person, someone with qualified teacher status.
“The kids’ exams are coming up and they are being sent home with worksheets for the parents to do with them. A lot of parents are not able to understand the different methods used. What happens if we get it wrong Our children’s education is at stake.”
She added: “We have been told it is only short term but is has been going on for weeks now. Why is this happening.? Is it about finances? There is a headteacher and deputy head at the school who do not teach, why can’t they cover?
Another parent said: “It is a real worry for parents. We are concerned there is no qualified teacher there . We have been told she is a HLTA but she is not a qualified teacher. We are being told she is doing her best, with two other assistants. If this had only been for one or two weeks we could have compromised but it has been going on too long now. The children are suffering. They are getting confused. Library books haven’t been changed and when I try to do maths homework with my child we’re struggling.”
The mum of a young girl in the class added: “We were told it was only going to be short term. I think we are within our rights to expect a proper teacher.”
Simon Jones, Lancashire’s national executive member for the National Union of Teachers described the move as “teaching on the cheap”.
He added: “Support staff are great and are there to support not be used as a replacement for a qualified teacher.
“It is an insult to teachers, who train for four years and do a degree, an insult to the teaching assistants - who are paid a fraction of what teachers get - and worse of all it is an insult to the kids, who should have the best teacher they can.
“There are some really good supply teachers out there looking for work and this really is the thin end of the wedge.”
Preston headteacher David Fann is national primary spokesman for the National Association of Headteachers. He said: “Our view is that a teacher should be in front of a class. Among other things, they are trained in child development, in terms of lesson development we would not want the profession to be de-professionalised.
“However there are times when teaching assistants can cover, but we would not encourage that for a prolonged spell.”
Sarah Johnson, headteacher at Ribbleton Avenue Infant school, said: “I understand parents’ concerns, but I am completely confident that the needs of our year two children are being fully met.
“Until we can make permanent arrangements, we’re using the considerable skills of three teaching assistants to cover the class in the short term. These teaching assistants are working closely with the parallel year two class teacher, who is an experienced class teacher and a member of the senior leadership team.
“The lead teaching assistant is qualified to Level 5 Btec HND level, and the other two have considerable relevant experience and are extremely competent at supporting children who are working towards the Key Stage one SATs. This qualification fully meets the current legal requirements for cover.”