April 1, 2014

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Children benefit immensely from the hundreds of thousands of fantastic teachers and support staff in our schools, who do amazing work every single day of the academic year to teach our children. 

So, today, I would like to celebrate the work and contribution of school staff. 

We should value and support all public sector professionals, something which has been overlooked, particularly over the past four yours. 

By any measure, we have the best generation of teachers that we have ever had, following the massive investment in teachers and teaching assistants by the last government. 

So, it is about time that the culture of criticism and attacks on the professional work force in our schools and across the public sector came to an end. It is also about time that those who deliver public services and who are there to ensure that our children get the best possible education, get the support and encouragement that they deserve and need in order to do a good job.

The people at the top should show leadership by supporting and encouraging teachers. Sadly, all too often politicians criticise those who work in our schools and elsewhere in the public sector. 

It is time such undermining of public servants came to an end.

Recent changes by the coalition government mean that teachers in academies do not have to be qualified. Half of secondary schools are now academies and a growing number of primary schools are too. Recent changes to the measures used to evaluate primary schools will mean that most primary schools come under greater pressure to become academies so we face a situation where most schools could be encouraged by government to employ unqualified teachers. 

This is a worrying development which I shall return to on another occasion.

Suffice to say, it is clear from looking at the evidence that all teachers in state schools should be qualified or working towards a qualification while teaching assistants are there to support and should not be asked to act as unqualified teachers.

We tend to think of teachers when we think about what happens in the classroom, but teaching assistants allow teachers the time to plan lessons, to mark work and to carry out their own duties and responsibilities, so it is important to consider the work of both.

Under the previous Labour Government, an agreement was reached for teachers to have some time each week for planning, preparation and marking, all of which are an important part of learning. If teachers have that time, they are in a stronger position during lessons, and support from teaching assistants contributes to that.

There has been criticism of teachers and of teaching assistants from some politicians. But the vast majority of staff in our schools do a good job and as a parent I am extremely grateful to those staff for the work they do. 

If we are to thrive as a country and if our children are to succeed, we need to encourage those working in schools to reach the highest standards and I would encourage everyone to do just that.