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Classroom Assistants continue to be undervalued

23 February, 2007


Sinn Féin Newry and Armagh MP Conor Murphy has said that many classroom assistants feel that if there is no change in their status that they will continue to be undervalued in what is an often demanding and responsible job.

Mr Murphy said:

"Classroom assistants play an important role in our schools. Yet, many classroom assistants feel that if there is no change in their status that they in schools will continue to be undervalued in what is an often demanding and responsible job.

"Recent studies have shown that Classroom assistants felt they undertook complex welfare and care tasks without additional pay and often felt moral obligation or tacit pressure from the school to undertake these tasks.

"One study revealed that virtually all the classroom assistants from the secondary and special schools focus groups work with pupils with identifiable Additional Support for Learning (ASL) needs where they reported that their work falls within three areas:

  • Care and welfare (responding to complex care and nursing needs)
  • Providing behavioural control (working with the most disruptive pupils on a one-to-one basis or with small groups allowing the class teacher to focus on teaching the rest of the class)
  • Providing support for learning and teaching (involves delivering set work and using own initiative in delivering tasks to support pupil learning)

Speaking after a special meeting arranged by Sinn Féin Newry and Mourne Councillor Brendan Curran, who is also a member of the Southern Education and Library Board, with representatives of Classroom Assistants in the area Mr Murphy added:

"At a time when schools are facing increased responsibilities to meet the requirements of special needs in particular, the number of classroom assistants is being slashed.

"A majority of teachers and Head Teachers acknowledge the importance of Classroom Assistants, but many of the assistants were now totally frustrated at the lack of action taken to value their role. They Education Department need to develop strategies to ensure proper recognition for Classroom assistants, in particular through remuneration and career development opportunities." ENDS

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