I am a qualified teacher but have worked as a Teaching Assistant for the past three years in a mainstream primary. The biggest impact I have felt is the effect of cuts on the children’s experience and learning support. We no longer have specialist music or MFL provision, and the school counsellor, who used to come weekly to our school has had to go too. We are thin on the ground on MDSA’s and any illness or absence impacts hugely on how we are able to support children. We have access to a field we share with another school, which we cannot use regularly at lunchtimes simply because we don’t have enough staff to spread the children across multiple locations at break.
Our school is unique (it seems) in that it has not had to make any cuts to in-class support staff this year, but this has come at a price. And our leadership team has made it clear they are doing all they can to prevent that from happening, but cannot sustain this long-term. We have a mixed-ability intake with a high level of SEND, and extra funding for this support is sparse and hard to get. The journey families and schools go on to get the minimal amount of extra funding is convoluted and often unfruitful – assessments are denied, support services such as CAMHS and BHISS are grossly understaffed and underfunded, and even getting the professional advice required can take weeks if not months.
As a result, any existing TA support is driven to high-need children, with the vast majority of kids with ‘regular levels of difficulty’ often having to fend for themselves. Teachers and support staff often go beyond the remit of their jobs and contracted hours to meet children’s needs, and we are eternally juggling who gets the support and who doesn’t. It is often a heartbreaking exercise of sharing insufficient provision, knowing that you will simply not be able to help everyone who needs it.
Resources are limited to the bare minimum now. Apart from the narrowing of the UKS2 curriculum due to the results-driven syllabus, there is the element of lack of funds to provide the students with enrichment experiences, art and science equipment, topic resources and musical instruments.
It cannot go on.