Hundreds join protest over teaching assistants’ pay

Unison organiser Helen Metcalf with teaching assistants outside Durham County Hall.
Unison organiser Helen Metcalf with teaching assistants outside Durham County Hall.
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Hundreds of teaching assistants held a protest outside County Hall in Durham yesterday as part of their contracts dispute.

They claim Durham County Council’s plans to change contracts to term-time working only will result in a pay cut of up to 23% for the 2,700 staff employed as teaching assistants across the county, putting many on less than the minimum wage.

Helen Metcalf, regional organiser for Unison, said: “The turnout was fantastic and we got a lot of support from passing motorists.

“It was a peaceful demonstration in a bid to raise awareness of the issue.

“For our members, this is a life-changing amount to face losing; for most it is equivalent to their mortgage or rental payment.

“Our members work above and beyond their hours, not because they get paid for it, but because they love their job. Many run breakfast and after-school clubs and even holiday clubs. It will be the children that suffer as well.”

Durham County Council is considering changing pay structures from a 52-week salary to term-time only pay, which could leave staff between £1,000 and £5,000 worse off.

Coun Jane Brown, cabinet member for corporate services at Durham County Council, said: “The vast majority of other councils across the country and within the region have, through agreement, implemented changes to teaching assistants’ terms and conditions, so that they are paid for the hours worked and on a term-time basis.

“It is about fairness and paying teaching assistants for the hours and time that they work.

“Any financial savings from such a change would remain in school budgets.”