Why are MPs debating pay for teaching assistants?

House of Commons Petitions Select Committee

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A petition asking the Government to increase pay for teaching assistants received over 88,000 signatures:

Recognise Teaching Assistants as an important asset to schools by raising wage.

"A Teaching Assistant's role is demanding, and the workload they face in current times is massive. Duties include, but are not limited to: supporting SEN students (often on a one to one basis), teaching groups of children and sometimes even a whole class to cover teachers, lesson planning, organising extra curricular activities, making sure that every child reaches their full potential. Sadly, as the wage is so low, this is not a job many TA's can afford to keep, and a huge number of highly skilled TA's are being forced to find other jobs. This needs to change."

The Petitions Committee scheduled a debate on this petition in the House of Commons on Monday 17 July 2023 at 4.30pm.


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To inform the debate, the Petitions Committee launched a survey asking respondents about their views on the wages, workload and responsibilities of teaching assistants

Find out what respondents told us about their views.

The member of the Committee who opened the debate, Tonia Antoniazzi MP, spoke with unions and a relevant charity to find out more about the issue.

House of Commons Debate

Opening the debate, Tonia Antoniazzi gave the following statement:

"Some 88,410 people signed this petition, including 178 in my constituency. The Petitions Committee received 22,506 responses to its survey, of which 84% were teaching assistants and 3% were former teaching assistants.
"This issue is particularly close to my heart, because before I was elected as the Member of Parliament for Gower, I was a secondary school teacher, and I have worked with dozens of teaching assistants over my career, which also included eight years working in the north-west of England in four different schools.
"I know at first hand how invaluable the support that they provide is in not just running a classroom, but supporting pupils to achieve their full potential. I have also seen how their roles over the years have been dismissed and devalued—the last in the list when it comes to progression and development, but the first roles to be cut when budgets are.
"There is an expectation of unpaid after-hours work just to fill the gaps left by schools when they are cutting budgets and when public services are being cut more broadly, and they provide key pastoral care and wellbeing support. In far too many cases, they must provide physical support when they are neither trained nor remunerated for that work.
"I know from my own experience that many of the women I worked with who were teaching assistants moved on to other work or had numerous jobs. Teaching assistants are some of the lowest paid public sector workers, sitting at the bottom of local government pay scales.
"In the long term, our education system needs a radical new approach to funding, but as a first step towards that much-needed reform I can think of no better place to start than improving the salary and recognition of teaching assistants.
"I close my remarks with a quote from a teacher in response to the Committee’s survey:
"[Teaching assistants] are all too often the only reason a student will stay in school. Their nurturing nature and patience is priceless, their ability to break down work so a student can understand is phenomenal. Pay them what they deserve!"
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The Government's response

The Minister for Schools, Nick Gibb MP, responded to the debate on behalf of the Government.

"The Government value teaching assistants and the role they play alongside excellent teachers. We recognise the positive impact they can have on pupil outcomes when they are well deployed and well trained [...] we will be developing a longer-term approach to ensure that this is the case and that the impact of teaching assistants is more consistent across the system.
"Schools are best placed to recruit and pay teaching assistants according to their own needs, which is why central Government do not have a role in setting pay for teaching assistants or other school support staff.
"Many schools, including academies, pay teaching assistants according to local government pay scales, and if the pay offer for local government employees is accepted for 2023-24, it would see the lowest paid earning 22% more than they did in April 2021."

Watch or read his full speech.

Tonia Antoniazzi MP summed up the debate:

"I believe that there is a need for reform: our teaching assistants deserve better, and there should be a real focus on recruitment and retention.

"I appreciate that I am from Wales, but the issues are similar across the United Kingdom, so we should all stand together, work together, and look to improve recruitment and retention, and pay, for those who play a vital role in our schools."

Watch or read the debate

MPs debated these petitions on 17 July 2023. You can watch the full debate below or read the debate transcript on Hansard.

Watch the full debate:

Read the information pack from the House of Commons Library: Teaching assistants pay

How it works

Petition debates

Petition debates can be an important part of a campaign. Debates help raise awareness of an issue and can influence decision-making in Government and Parliament.

Petition debates are 'general' debates which allow MPs from all parties to discuss the important issues raised by one or more petitions, and put their concerns to Government Ministers.

Petition debates don’t end with a vote to implement the request of a petition. This means MPs did not vote on the request of the petition at the end of the debate.

What is the Petitions Committee?

The Petitions Committee is a cross-party group of MPs that considers e-petitions submitted on Parliament's petitions website and public (paper) petitions, engaging the public directly with the work of the House of Commons.

Get involved

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