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In the last issue of Nursery World, we published our early years pay and conditions survey 2016, run with the Pre-school Learning Alliance.

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This involved full daycare and sessional settings, but didn’t include a very significant part of the workforce – teaching assistants.

And teaching assistants around the country are being subjected to significant cuts in their salaries and worsening terms and conditions, just as their deployment is improving and their worth is being proved.

How can it be fair for a hard-working staff member on £16,000 a year to find their pay falling to £11,000 as a term-time only contract is imposed?

Many teaching assistants work hours well in excess of their contracts, and their role has changed greatly from the ‘mums’ army’ of ‘paint pot washers’ of years gone by. Some are taking lessons – and opposition from teachers to this has decreased as teaching assistants have proved increasingly invaluable.

As our Analysis article ‘Winners and losers’ (pages 14-15) and our news story (pages 6-7) show, these dedicated workers have been pushed into direct action and are voting to strike.

Taking such a course of action does not come naturally to those who work with and support young children, but livelihoods and careers are at stake.

Schools will lose many talented and effective staff if this continues, mirroring the situation in early years settings.

Teaching assistants and early years practitioners alike must be valued and appreciated, and paid properlyfor the work they do, or it is children and families who will suffer the consequences.

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