Letter to LA from a concerned TA written by @magicFairy_TA Please RT

This email was sent to me on Monday 9th June from a concerned Teaching Assistant. I must stress that I do not know this TA and I do not know the LA she refers to. I do know that she is a genuine person who is concerned for her role and concerned for the role of other dedicated TAs in our profession. She has asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals.

I am wondering if this is part of a general picture throughout the country? Do other TAs feel this way? Are other LAs allowing this dedicated army of professionals to feel under valued and worthless.

Could you please leave a comment in the box below so that I can judge the picture throughout the country. Please RT.

Thank you for your time.

Dear LEA,
>
> In writing to you, I want to let you know of my concerns for education in your authority. I have fears for the children and the staff.
>
> I’ve worked in schools in your authority for 10 years, as a Teaching Assistant (TA). Although, like many TAs, I was perfectly capable academically of becoming a teacher, it wasn’t for me. Many of my school mates didn’t even make the five year mark in teaching. As a TA I was able to use my skills without losing touch with my crucial objective, which was to engage children and to make learning fun! I hadn’t worried about number crunching to meet ridiculous criteria or teaching to targets, like Teachers reluctantly do.
>
> I work in one of your local special schools, until recent years it really was a ‘special’ place to work. It had a magical atmosphere, the children were centre to our ethos and staff enjoyed every minute of working there. People who visited, commented on the happy vibe and happy children. Management, Teachers, TA’s, Dinner staff and Health staff all worked as a team. We could deal with anything. This was key to working in this type of environment, we dealt with extremely emotive situations such as death of pupils and extreme pupil violence. By supporting each-other, together we deal with anything that was thrown at us. We always worked with a smile. It didnt matter who was who; when dealing with those situations, we all had our strengths and weaknesses. Together we were unstoppable.
>
> Four years ago, everything changed dramatically- when we got a new Head Teacher (HT). This seems one of a new breed of HT (quite similar to others in your authority.) They have been fast tracked to management with little experience of teaching, they are decisive and frugal. Good qualities for a manager to have. There’s nothing wrong with either of those traits in management of schools, but for those characteristics to be qualities, they need to be matched with fairness and integrity. If this balance is not there, then its a dangerous position of if power. Some would say our HT is ‘corporate’ but I disagree, corporate management aim to motivate staff and although they may be bureaucratic, they aim to be consistent in their approach to employees. Our management team acts with no consistency, fairness or integrity. They lead with spite, creating fear and uncertainty in the staff group, through segregating staff, publicly humiliating them and generally creating a hostile environment. There is no clear objective to their actions. The HT did not like that at our school we were previously a close team. It was made clear they wanted everyone to know their place in the pile. Everyone already knew that in certain situations, there needed to be some hierarchy in our team, we just didn’t rub it in anyones face and acted subtly. We all brought different skills to the mix, we learnt from one another.
>
> From speaking to colleagues in other schools, our situation is not un common. The TA’s here were made very quickly to feel that we didn’t matter, they even made comments that the job as a TA was pointless and that they would get better value from employing carers instead, probably assuming that they would do as they were told. Carers do an amazing job for little reward and it takes a special person to do it well, but they aren’t there to educate, not like we are, it’s a completely different job. They didn’t get it at all, they are so far removed from the classroom, they don’t realise our worth. Our confidence was subsequently zapped and our self worth is zero.
>
> The Teachers are only treated marginally better, they are acknowledged in meetings (unlike us) but they are on a treadmill, working to ridiculous deadlines and targets that are meaningless to the pupils. People think that school staff have it easy, getting twelve weeks holidays a year, great pay and working conditions. This is a myth, teachers really don’t get that much time off- they work evenings, weekends and holidays at home and still don’t get enough work done to feel secure. TA’s also do unpaid overtime, missed lunches, early mornings, late nights, all for the greater good of the children. The TA’s and Teachers alike at our school, dread returning to work after a holiday, not to the pupils (who we care about dearly) but to the unknown next action or request of the malicious HT. Most of us would swap to six weeks holiday like other council workers, if it meant we had a work life balance, earned more and didn’t live in fear.
>
> There’s also a blame culture in schools.  When anything doesn’t go to plan, someone is found to be accountable, blame is pushed down the line. Management at our school make reckless decisions involving pupil safety. (Regularly leaving classes short staffed, or lack of decent training) this puts us all in danger. Although as TAs we get no recognition when things go right (such as OFsted), we are vulnerable when things go wrong.
>
> To top things off; the TA’s have been downgraded, this is happening all over the country. Whilst the unions are fighting for a fair wage ,we actually losing money. We, like others are still being asked to do our previous duties and being paid less for it, with little recognition of our skills and experience. We are told that we are lucky in this economic climate to have a job. A TA earns between twelve and nineteen thousand pounds a year, a pay cut to us will hardly a drop in the ocean of a schools expenditure, yet downgrading us loses so much more than monetary value in goodwill for the school. To put things into perspective, the saving made by cutting our combined wages, is one quarter of our HT annual salary. We are skilled, professional people who work for the love of the pupils, but we have our limits.
>
> You may think from this letter that we are reluctant to change. This isn’t true, especially of people who choose to work in Special Education. We thrive off new challenges and are creative in problem solving. Coping with change is one of our strengths.
>
> What concerns me most is the dis-service we are doing the pupils. Staff are the biggest asset a school has, yet are given the least respect of any resource. The pupils previous passionate, enthusiastic heroes, are now shells of their former selves. Some have been lucky to escape, others are tired and scared, no longer working with smiles on their faces. People are afraid to talk to each other, in the fear that something gets mis interpreted and gets back to the management, then they will be the next target. General staff self confidence is so low that they don’t get the jobs that they apply for, so are stuck in limbo in a job they now hate in a vocation they once loved. Some like me, stay in the hope that things will get better, but that wont last forever. Our replacements wont have the specialist knowledge and experience that we have. You wont realise this until its too late. The staff that work here are the best, yet you do not get the best from them.The pupils are not getting the experiences they deserve, they could have the best.
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> Yet, LEA you know all this. We have reported incidents of managerial bullying and incidents of concern for pupil safety. You actually believe us when we tell you. Yet you have never intervened. As long as OFSTED results are positive, you are happy to leave issues to the governors. Our governing body is weak, full of local worthies who are hudwinked by statistics and find it easier to swallow lies, rather than face upto the issues at hand. What do they know about our school? They couldn’t name five staff or pupils here. The staff are the ones with the inside knowledge, so listen to us! Education here is on a downward spiral, please step in.
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> Yours Sincerely,
> Your dedicated yet concerned TA.
>
>

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