The online petition has been started by Cherryl Drabble, a teacher working in a special educational needs school, in reaction to speculation that the Government is considering removing the role of teaching assistants.
‘Say no to the removal of teaching assistants’, calls for the Secretary of State for Education not to "slash schools" budgets and force the removal of teaching assistants (TAs).
Newspaper reports at the beginning of the month suggested that cuts to the Department for Education's budget could lead to a loss of some of the country’s around 232,000 classroom assistants in an attempt to save £4 billion a year.
Nursery World contacted the Department for Education but they refused to comment until after the Spending Review takes place next Wednesday.
According to Ms Drabble, whose petition has so far received 60,107 signatures, ‘teachers, TAs, all stakeholders and the general public feel strongly that the removal of TAs will harm the well-being and education of many of our children.’
The petition also includes an open letter from Cherryl Drabble to Michael Gove explaining the role of TAs in the school she works in.
Within the letter, Ms Drabble says that her school cannot run without teaching assistants. In her class alone she says she has four TAs who work with children with varying levels of special educational needs.
‘Each TA has been specifically trained for a certain role according to their talents and interests. And it’s not just in my classroom that these excellent people work.
‘Across the school we have TAs working in all areas. From the 20 who deal with the children’s bathroom requirements to the very talented TA who, as a gymnast and swimming teacher, was instrumental in helping one of our students become a paralympian last year.’
She goes on to argue that most teaching assistants earn around £7 an hour and some £9 an hour, which she says is hardly a fortune. She added that most do the job not for the money but because they want to improve the lives of the children.
Ms Drabble concludes by urging Michael Gove to think again before removing teaching assistants.
Commenting on the petition, Sharon Evans, who worked with children with autism and emotional problems for over ten years, said, ‘The thought of teaching assistants being taken away from schools is beyond outrageous. This has got to be stopped. It has taken years to get equality for children in the classroom, and now the Government wants to back to this out-dated, unrealistic and divisive idea.
Another comment from Rainy Eliza, a parent of a child with special educational needs, said, ‘When my son was at school he never would have been able to achieve what he has without a TA. He had a statement of special educational needs throughout his school life and still he never got the help he needed.
‘The teachers are already overworked and don’t have time for the special pupils. As if life isn’t hard enough for them already, you now want them to sit at the back of the class and let the lesson go over their heads because they do not understand and will have nobody to ask for help from. Shame on you.’