Teacher’s challenge to education chief

Education secretary Michael Gove who is considering phasing out funding for teaching assistants in primary schools.
Education secretary Michael Gove who is considering phasing out funding for teaching assistants in primary schools.
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A frustrated Blackpool teacher has sent an open letter to the education secretary urging him not to implement some of his most controversial money saving ideas.

Cherryl Drabble wrote to Michael Gove after reading the Department for Education is considering phasing out funding for teaching assistants (TAs) in order to save £4bn a year.

She has outlined the importance of TAs in her own classroom and the vital role they play in enhancing learning – and has asked the Conservative MP to look again at the matter.

The teacher at Highfurlong School, a special needs school on Blackpool Old Road, posted the letter on her blog this week and it has already had 50,000 views.

She told The Gazette: “The overwhelming response to the blog is people are backing it and saying it’s about time someone spoke out.”

Think-tank Reform questioned the value for money of teaching assistants, saying their impact on educational outcomes for pupils was negligible and suggesting it would be value for money for schools to cut their numbers.

But Mrs Drabble, who started at the school 13 years ago as a teaching assistant and works with children with a range of emotional, behavioural and physical difficulties, disagrees.

She said: “Teaching assistants are vital to the running of school here. Each TA has been specially trained for a certain role according to their talents and interests.

“The days are gone when TAs mixed paints and listened to readers.

“They are now hugely talented, highly qualified and specialised people. This is not just in SEN schools but right across the board.”

Mrs Drabble has not yet had a response to her letter, but hopes her comments will be taken on board.

She added: “I’d like them to not just take the advice of one survey. I’m hoping he might just give it a bit more thought or open it up for debate.”

The Department for Education said it did not wish to comment on the matter.

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