Cumbrian boy tells protest: Teaching assistants deserve every penny
Last updated at 16:45, Friday, 25 February 2011
Little Nathan McInnes galvanised an army of 700 demonstrators into action as they marched on the county council headquarters in Carlisle in protest of the authority’s plans to slash teaching assistants’ pay.
Seven-year-old Nathan, from Curthwaite near Wigton, took to the bandstand in the city centre as heartfelt words penned by his mother Nicola were read out to the generations that gathered yesterday from across Cumbria.
Nathan has autism and his mother says his life has been transformed thanks to the teaching assistants who work with him at James Rennie School in Carlisle. She says that without their help he could not go to the toilet, dress himself or talk.
The pay review, that affects employees across the council, aims to remove inequalities that might give rise to equal pay claims. The dispute also includes the row over teaching assistants’ contracted hours and holiday entitlement compared with that of other council employees.
At the emotional finale, city teaching assistant Gill Royle – who launched a Facebook group that has attracted more than 2,000 people in just a few days – read on Nathan’s behalf.
She read: “Without help from my teaching assistants I would still need to help to dress and undress myself. Without their help I wouldn’t be able to talk as well as I do and we all know how much I love to talk. Without their help I couldn’t take the register back to the office and gain some independence. Without their help I couldn’t go swimming every week and I wouldn’t be able to swim 40 metres unaided. Without their help, I couldn’t attend after-school clubs, the play scheme or have visits to town. Without their help I wouldn’t be toilet trained.
“Without their help I wouldn’t be the little boy I am today. Teaching assistants everywhere deserve every penny and more. Without teaching assistants my class would be empty – no love, no support, no fun.”
Afterwards Nicola said: “I’m a nurse and I didn’t realise how many qualifications they have – they are more qualified than me.
“The teaching assistants like those at James Rennie have so many professional skills. They have to be trained to give medication, they are trained to give one-to-one specialist support in all kinds of things.”
Christina McAnea, Unison’s national head of education and children’s services,
She told protestors: “You have a council that does not recognise the job and undervalues what you do.”
Traffic was brought to a standstill as the crowd marched to The Courts to deliver petitions and letters from parents, headteachers and MPs calling on the council to reconsider the assistants’ position. Shoppers clapped them along the way.
Confusion reigned for several minutes when council chiefs would not come out to accept it. After a delay, councillor Liz Mallinson, the cabinet member responsible for organisational development, was booed as she stepped out to collect the bag.
Cumbria County Council leader Eddie Martin said: “Single status isn’t about singling out any particular posts. It’s a nationally agreed process and it's about implementing a fair and equal pay system. The law requires us to ensure that our system for paying staff is consistent and fair and it’s something that we do have to go through.”
He said many other councils have gone through the same pay review, introducing similar changes for teaching assistants. Cumbria’s school budgets were not being cut and schools would be able to choose to pay teaching assistants more if they wished.
Mr Martin said: “No changes are being made to school budgets as a result of single status. Schools can explore whether teaching assistants could work more hours thereby increasing the take-home pay they get.”
He said general teaching assistants get £8.69 an hour based on their 32.5-hour working week compared with other council staff doing jobs “at a similar level” who are paid an hourly rate of £7.63 based on a 37-hour week.
Mr Martin also argues that teaching assistants’ leave has historically been calculated on working full-time, compared with term-time only, claiming that it sees them getting 70 days leave compared to an annual entitlement of 27-33 days.
First published at 14:25, Friday, 25 February 2011
Published by http://www.cumberlandnews.co.uk
Have your say
If Siobham, 28th Feb 20.36, is correct about the number of redundancies I have to say I am perplexed as to how management have arrived at a figure of 420+ redundancies. Surely it is not just a case of get rid of 420 staff but to reduce the councilâs wage bill by a certain figure. For example to get rid of the two non-legally required corporate directors is the same cost saving as getting rid of 12+ administrative staff.
I fully agree with the comments made yesterday by "All the same". A pertinent question to be answered is how many of the next tier down of senior management who were subject to the single status review have received salary increases of 10k,12k,15k etc? Thought this exercise was about equality - not everyone is fooled. Every sympathy to the TA's but don't let us get distracted from what else has happened.
View all 88 comments on this article