Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and Welsh Language
Teaching assistants are an integral part of our education workforce, providing vital support to our children and young people day-in, day-out. They have a crucial role to play in helping tackle the impact of poverty on educational attainment and in realising our collective ambitions for Curriculum for Wales.
Teaching assistants have long highlighted concerns in relation to their roles in schools ranging from access to training, deployment, and terms and conditions. As part of my commitment to support the vital work of our teaching assistants, work is progressing to respond to these concerns with our social partners, including the education trade unions, WLGA and local authorities.
A Task and Finish Group, which also includes teaching assistants and headteacher representation, has identified several key areas for attention:
- deployment of teaching assistants;
- access to training and professional development;
- standardisation of roles; and
- pay, as a longer term consideration for local authorities based on outcomes achieved above.
My officials will continue the work underway with our partners in the coming months to identify how improvements can be best made in these areas. I am encouraged that progress is already being made.
Guidance on the appropriate deployment of teaching assistants in schools is already provided to school leaders via Hwb. However, further advice and guidance will feature as part of an invigorated professional learning offer currently being developed in conjunction with stakeholders.
A new Teaching Assistant Professional Learning Steering Group is developing further resources for leaders and Governors on the deployment of teaching assistants. This professional learning package, developed in conjunction with headteachers, teaching assistants and regional staff, will be available to leaders and Governors for both live and remote synchronous learning.
I have also now agreed to fund a comparative research project to look at the deployment of teaching assistants in other education systems, to inform future developments in guidance in this area.
Access to training and professional development
Since 2017, the Welsh Government in partnership with the Regional Consortia, has supported the development of a Teaching Assistants Learning Pathway (TALP) in order to increase the number Higher Level Teaching Assistant candidates, and provide training for all new teaching assistants, and offer opportunities to gain level 2 qualifications in certain core subjects.
More recently, since its establishment, the Steering Group has also now been identifying gaps in provision of professional development and training to teaching assistants themselves with the aim of ensuring equality of access to targeted, high quality and consistent training.
From September 2022, teaching assistants will have access to a new National Professional Learning Entitlement to support the delivery of the Curriculum for Wales, which will be easily accessible via Hwb. The Entitlement will improve access to the national professional learning offer for school leaders, teachers and teaching assistants. The core principles of the Entitlement are currently being co-developed with middle tier partners. I hope to be able to provide further information about the likely content of the Entitlement before the Easter recess
An important part of this professional learning offer will be to ensure that headteachers, teachers and teaching assistants can develop alongside each other, to increase the shared development of ideas and understanding.
Other areas that are currently being explored include setting minimum qualification requirements for teaching assistants, and developing further a flexible career pathway for teaching assistants. I hope to be able to provide further updates on progress in this area before the end of the summer term.
Standardisation of roles
One of the key issues that we have received feedback on is in relation to standardisation of teaching assistant roles across Wales. This is an area I am committed to addressing. The Task and Finish Group will now begin to look at this area, and will determine whether, and if so how, a standard set of job descriptions can be implemented across Wales.
This is a complex matter, but I hope we can take steps to ensure greater clarity and consistency in the roles being undertaken. In order to support this project I am pleased to say that I have agreed to fund a package of research activity, to inform the work of the Task and Finish Group based on experience from across Wales and elsewhere and to provide a solid foundation of evidence for their review.
The matter of pay has also been raised by teaching assistants as an area requiring attention, including consistency within and across local authorities. I am mindful that there are different pay structures in place across Wales, and the Welsh Government does not have the ability to set pay and conditions for teaching assistants. This remains the responsibility of local authorities and / or schools, with individual authorities having different approaches within their local pay frameworks to reflect local considerations. However, the work on deployment and standardisation of roles referred to above can bring greater coherence to support pay discussions, to work towards greater consistency between local authority areas and to support local authorities to reflect the important role that teaching assistants play, in their terms and conditions.
The well-being of the education workforce is of critical importance. I have commissioned Education Support (a specialist provider of well-being resources and support for the education workforce) to explore and develop a bespoke package of well-being support for teaching assistants. The package will be developed in conjunction with teaching assistants taking account of their experiences and specific support requirements. I hope to be in a position to roll-out this support in schools in the near future.
Governing body representation
Finally, I will be writing to all Governing Bodies across Wales recommending that they assign the role of ‘Teaching Assistant Champion’ to one of their members, with a responsibility to ensure that the perspective and input of teaching assistants is sought and included when key decisions are being made within the school, and to lead on the Governing Body in relation to teaching assistant deployment, training and wellbeing. In doing so, it will provide for the representation of teaching assistants within Governing Bodies and I understand from my discussions with the profession that this would represent an important and welcome step and provide a strong signal.
I hope that the measures outlined in this statement provide assurance to teaching assistants of the importance I place on the vital work that they do to support learners and my commitment to seeking to address their concerns. I am confident that the work already underway will make a difference, and I am particularly encouraged that this work has been undertaken through partnership working, with employers, staff, trade unions and Welsh Government officials working collaboratively. It is this type of joint working that I believe will lead to sustainable improvements.