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Unison, the UK's largest education union, has welcomed government ...
Unison, the UK's largest education union, has welcomed government plansto expand the role of school support staff, including teaching assistants, but warned that they must not be used as 'cheap' substitutes for teachers.

Unison, with 250,000 members working in education, including 50,000 teaching assistants, said the government's approach recognised the work of support staff and would open opportunities for career development, better pay and more secure contracts. Unison also welcomed the emphasis on the importance of training and called for additional funding.

However, the government had to address the issue of term-time only contracts as a matter of priority. Many teaching assistants are on term-time contracts. Some lose up to nine weeks pay a year and are barred from seeking jobseeker allowance while they are not working.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said:

'Unison welcomes the government's recognition of the important role that support staff play in schools. But this recognition has to be matched by a proper career structure linked to pay and training.

'For instance, 80% of teaching assistants earn less than£8,000 a year, have a poorly defined career structure and limited training opportunities.

'With greater responsibilities and new career opportunities, it is wrong to expect teaching assistants to continue to put up with term-time contracts. Teachers get paid for a full year's work. So should teaching assistants.'

A recent Unison report found salaries for teaching assistants vary between£7,125 and almost£18,000 per year. Hourly rates vary from£4.96 to£7.50. There are huge disparities in holiday pay with 40% of schools saying they did not pay teaching assistants during all holidays.

The report also revealed that 15% of schools said teaching assistants had been required to stand in for absent teachers.

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