Teaching Assistant Dispute

Truths, and Myths, about the Teaching Assistant/ School Support staff dispute

6x4a6147After nearly 18 months of a dispute, and 7 months of strike action, there is still much confusion over the facts, the root cause, and why negotiations are locked.

There is a broad population of people affected;  Teaching Assistants (TAs) in both mainstream, and specialist schools that look after the most vulnerable children, together with School Support staff performing a variety of different functions.  There are many variations of hours worked, pay rates, timings of changes etc, but there are some very common themes, and mis-conceptions which apply to the majority.

Q1 The strike is about a pay increase.

MYTH. No one is striking over a pay increase. They just  don’t want to lose pay.

Q2 The strike is about Equal Pay between men and women

MYTH. The 25% reduction is nothing to do with the Equal Pay Review/ Job Evaluation. No one is suggesting that the whole Job Evaluation exercise be repeated. In fact, if the only changes were to do with Job Evaluation then the dispute would probably end.

Q3 The reduction in pay is to do with TAs/School Support no longer being paid for school holidays.

MYTH. They have never been paid for school holidays, only statutory holiday entitlements, the same as everyone else. Their contracted salary was divided by 12 simply for administration purposes.

Q4 TAs are only low-paid, unqualified staff, doing casual tasks in the classroom.

MYTH. Many TAs are qualified to graduate level, are very experienced and skilled people. TAs can have many of the teaching responsibilities of Teachers. TAs in specialist schools who are responsible, in many cases, for 1:1 support also have significant care responsibilities, including some health needs of the child.

Q5 The changes to Terms and conditions were done to harmonise them with all other Council Staff who work 9-5, 5 days a week.

MYTH. There are many permutations of detailed working patterns based on the needs of the job. Some staff, like groundsmen, whose workload is seasonal, do more hours during the summer, than the winter. Refuse collectors work 4 days a week, but are paid for 5, and get the 3-4 days between Xmas and New Year.  Most Council workers can take their Annual Leave entitlement when they like – TAs / School Support staff can’t – they have to take them during the school holidays – when travel is at its most expensive.

TAs/School Support must do all of their work within the confines of the 39 week term time.

Q6 TAs/Schools Support are Part-time staff – they are only contracted for 32.5 hrs per work.

MYTH. All staff were employed on Full-time contracts, at an annual salary recognising the term-time pattern. The 32.5 hr contract is “directed time” which is when they have to be available in the classroom. Above this they are required to do  “such reasonable additional hours as may be necessary to enable the effective discharge of their professional duties”.  This could be considerably in excess of the 32.5hrs but results no increase in pay – it is factored into the salary.

This is exactly the same structure as for Teachers, however their pay and conditions is negotiated nationally, so are unaffected.

Under the changes to the Terms and Conditions, Derby City Council have focussed on the numerical contracted hrs of 32.5hr but ignored the additional duties that are delivered. As this is below the standard working week of 37 hrs, and term-time is 39 weeks, then DCC  has “deemed” them to be Part-Time Workers., and as a result, has reduced their pay by 25%.

They are no more part-time than Teachers.

Q7 The TAs/Support staff can work to rule, and just work the 32.5hrs that they are contracted to.

MYTH. They are professional people working with children, some who are very vulnerable. They cannot just leave the classroom when “ the buzzer goes”, and leave children unattended. They know that they have signed a contract to deliver the 32.5hrs “directed” time plus the additional hrs necessary to ensure the children have a proper education.

Q8 Derby City Council expect them to work the additional hrs for FREE

TRUE. Now, under the new forced contract, every hour that is worked above the contracted hrs is unpaid. Which other low-paid Council worker would accept not being paid for every hour that they work? The Council will state that all overtime is paid, but, in this respect it is being very disingenuous – in practice it is not paid.

Q9 Derby City Council did not need to change the Terms and Conditions as part of the Equal Pay Review

TRUE. The 2 are completely unconnected, however the Council do muddy the waters in their external communications.

Q10 The Council have also removed the Special Classroom Allowance of ~£1000 from those TAs who look after the most vulnerable children.

TRUE. And this is also nothing to do with the Equal Pay Review.

Q11 So the Council have hit the TAs twice – reduced their salary by 25% and refuse to pay full overtime for every hour that they work.

TRUE. If the Council put them on an hourly-rate based style contract, then they should pay for every hour worked. In many cases, if they were paid full hours, then they would not have a 25% reduction.

Q12. The Council can’t afford to pay them their original salary due to Central Government cuts

MYTH. The Council’s own Head Teacher’s Update states clearly that this is totally unrelated to Govt cuts. In fact the Council has provisioned for a £5.6m increase in its funded revenue budget to cover cost increases from the Equal Pay review.

So what should the Council do?


  1. Pay them the salary that is consistent with their recently job-evaluated grade, as a full-time member of staff, OR
  2. Pay for every hour that they work in delivering the job that they have contracted to do, and which has been evaluated.

Expecting them to do the full job, and only pay for some of the hours is fundamentally unethical, archaic, and certainly not what Trade Unions and the Labour Party have been fighting for, over the decades.

If this stunt was tried on the Refuse Collectors, and they went on strike, it would be resolved in a matter of days, and as Grant Thornton noted in their 2016 report:

“The pay option adopted in October 2013 for staff subject to Job Evaluation was motivated, according to officers, by a political desire to protect refuse workers, whom Members feared, might strike prior to the May 2014 elections, if they received an unfavourable pay outcome.”

And the Council tell everyone it’s imposed on them by the Government – this dispute is as a result of choices that the Labour Council has made – pure and simple!

5 replies »

  1. The lead photo indicates how upset they are by broad smiles all round. I would hope that they are being dealt with the same as pupil paying a penalty for unauthorised days off. They have a union who should be capable of dealing with this situation by negotiation, that’s what they are paid for.
    The best quote Q7 ‘ They cannot just leave the classroom when the buzzer goes’ It would b nice if they were there to hear it but that is stated to be agreed as part of their contract.

    • Feels like you might not have approached this with an open mind and respected the fact that it might be more complicated than you imagine. Do you expect all TAs to walk round permanently with miserable faces?

    • For goodness sake, do you expect them to be photographed crying and looking sad?? As a semi retired teacher I can categorically say that classrooms could not function without the support of fantastic TAs. Unfortunately, lots of children today need extra support. A teacher might have a class of 30 children with 6 children with special educational needs, 3 children with behavioural problems or other needs and be teaching children to get through tests! Gone are the days in the majority of schools of children sitting quietly and eager to please. I love teaching and there are lots of children who want to learn and it’s upsetting to have children who are intent on disrupting the class, so a really good TA works with the teacher to ensure the best for all children.
      As for your other point, the Government chose to fine parents, not schools, teachers or TAs.
      If I had a mortgage and young family, I would not be able to lose 25% of my wages, could you?

  2. Again the refuse collectors get a mention
    Where was the Telegraph when the refuse collectors lost £5000 a year I can’t remember the strikes then I don’t remember rubbish being piled up in the streets
    So I think it’s about time we got this into perspective I work 2 jobs because I’m a low paid refuse collector most of us drive crap cars or can’t even afford driving lessons never mind a car how many other lines of work fight the elements every day causing injuries wearing out knee joints arthritis in their hands from empting tens of thousands of bins being sworn at and threatened by the public on a daily basis

  3. My wife works as a cleaner at a school in Derby ,she has money stopped out of her hourly rate to pay for some of the holidays that schools have throughout the year ,and she has to do some hours during the year , so she is on. £ 7:50 an hour then you take the deductions for some holidays , so I think you don,t have much to moan about.

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