Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20 - 22)



  20. Following on from that, there is a question of support staff. Again, the Secretary of State recently launched this idea of an experiment in 30 launch pad schools where teachers' requirements were mapped out and there were some additional support staff. When you look at the detail it says at least one extra support staff for a primary school and at least four for a secondary school. Now in a typical secondary school there are 1,200 pupils, 80 teaching staff, four extra support staff does not go a long way if you are going to really change the relationship between teachers and support staff. In 22 years of teaching I never had any support staff in my classroom ever working with me unless it was specifically a special needs support staff tied to a particular kid with Down's Syndrome or some special need. To actually put enough support staff in to really make a difference to classroom teachers, particularly in secondary schools, it really would be an enormous number of extra people, not a token four for a secondary school.
  (Mr McAvoy) I think the figure that John referred to before from our own commissioned research suggests you should do this on an hourly basis. We should guarantee three hours per teacher, even that does not go a long way but it would be significantly more than has been suggested. The Government has committed 20,000—I think it is—additional classroom assistants during the course of Parliament so what is being described there is clearly just a part of that. My own view is if you are going to use these schools to pilot effectively what might be the benefit of a change in the way in which we want it, you have to stack them as if they were part of that change. If you only put a few in then you will not get the result you want. I think it is unfortunate that they are not going to put sufficient classroom assistants in to allow the pilot to be as effective as it could be. We welcome the concept of these particular schools so we can do some piloting and so the things we have been arguing for can be shown to be worthwhile and effective.


  21. I am afraid we are going to have to move on. Can I before thanking you for coming, both you and John Bangs, ask you one final question and that is really you made almost a throw away remark—I do not think it was a throw away remark—at the beginning of your evidence when you mentioned a move towards a different structure of the unions in the education sector. Was that whimsy or is that a practical possibility in the near future?

   (Mr McAvoy) It is in The Times Educational Supplement as one of my New Year wishes and in the leader it says "he makes this wish every year". What the article does is to show that there are factors now which I think point us more in that direction than previously, not least the fact that Nigel de Gruchy is about to retire and I will not be long after him. No, it is something we really hope for. We have been anxious to bring it about. Some of the things that have happened in recent months, maybe more than that, the last two or three years, I believe result from the fact that ourselves and the NASUWT have worked jointly on projects and because we have worked jointly then we have been listened to. Not only have we been listened to more but our respective members in the schools believe we have been doing the right thing. The signs, I think, and the mood is better now for the creation of a single teaching organisation than it ever has been.

  22. How do you evaluate the role of the GTC?
  (Mr McAvoy) We have been supporters or promoters of the GTC over the years. As a union we have had it as our policy since the 1960s and almost had one when Ted Short was Secretary of State on the back of the then Weaver Report. I think proportionally some of the language that has been used to described the GTC in England is unfortunate. I think there has been an attempt, either by accident or by design, to suggest that it would be the voice of teachers, it will never be that, it has not got the representative structure in order to be that. The voice of teachers will continue to be their respective unions or hopefully a single union. At one time the GTC claimed it was speaking for teachers, it does not speak for teachers. It has now changed that and says it speaks up for teachers, we have no objection to that. Gradually the GTC is modifying its language, changing its way and it will become whatever we want it to be.

  Chairman: Mr McAvoy and Mr Bangs, thank you very much.

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