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Petitions

Volume 527: debated on Thursday 28 April 2011

Petition

Thursday 28 April 2011

Observations

Communities and Local Government

Teaching Assistants

The Petition of residents of Cumbria, and others,

Declares that the Petitioners are concerned about the plight of Teaching Assistants in Cumbria, who feel they are being unfairly treated and whose professionalism is severely under threat. The Teaching Assistants/support staff across the country are currently fighting a change to their terms and conditions that affects their hours and a considerable loss of pay. Support staff are a vital resource for the running of a school. Senior Teaching Assistants also cover classes when teachers are absent or on planning time.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Education to look into the plight of Teaching Assistants.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Tony Cunningham, Official Report, 9 March 2011; Vol. 524, c. 1031.]

[P000898]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government:

The Government are not party to any changes to terms and conditions or job evaluation exercises a council may choose to undertake. However, the Government understand that Cumbria county council has recently undergone a job evaluation process in order to meet its commitments under the 1997 single status agreement. This is a national agreement between local government employers and trade unions which enables local authorities to meet their obligations under equal pay legislation.

Through representations from Members of Parliament, school governors, teaching assistants and others, the Government are aware that some staff have significant concerns about the impact that the job evaluation process will have on their individual terms and conditions. The Government are also aware that some teaching assistants believe that, as part of the process, their role has been incorrectly evaluated.

Head teachers, school governors and parents quite rightly have a high regard for school support staff and it is clear that this is an issue of some concern locally. The Government place great value on all staff in schools and the contribution they make to improving the life chances of children. However, the role of central Government in local government pay issues is extremely limited. These are matters for councils to determine as individual employers and it would not be appropriate for the Government to intervene in how Cumbria or any other council manages its work force.

The Government understand that Cumbria county council is currently undergoing an appeals process and is proposing to offer a year’s pay protection to allow those seeing a decrease in pay, time to adjust financially. The process of job evaluation exercises to meet commitments under the single status agreement can be difficult for both staff and councils. However, by placing the vast majority of the work force on a single harmonised pay scale, and taking steps to address the historical inequalities in pay this has revealed, local government has made significant progress in achieving equal pay, which is to be commended.