Kent Association of Headteachers chair says county facing teaching assistant shortfall

by My Kent Family reporter

A education chief says the county is facing a shortfall of teaching assistants.

Alan Brookes, the chairman of Kent Association of Headteachers, says there are around 156 vacancies across the county, which contains more than 600 primary and secondary schools, including academies.

The county facing teaching assistant shortfall
The county facing teaching assistant shortfall

School leaders are working with Kent County Council (KCC), the largest local authority in the Garden of England, to find ways to fill the job gaps, such as improving career progression and increasing staff pay.

Mr Brookes said: "It is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit teaching assistants and support our staff within schools."

Education is among a number of key industries across the UK facing job shortages, including HGV drivers and care homes.

Schools are facing growing competition from other UK employers that are offering better pay and "flexible" holiday packages, such as booming supermarket chains like Tesco, Asda, Aldi and Lidl.

Mr Brookes said: "One of the things schools used to achieve was to offer flexibility in terms of holiday, compared to other employers.

"However, a lot of other companies are offering flexible hours during the pandemic like supermarkets, which means there is more competition."

Online research shows that the average pay for teaching assistants is below £21,000 in areas outside of London in the UK, such as Kent.

Mr Brookes, the former headteacher at Sittingbourne's Fulston Manor secondary school, said the sector was "not blind" to a desire to increase pay, with calls for UK government support.

He said: "Money is an obstacle in terms of taking jobs. Local authorities and schools are not blind to that.

"It's hard to see how we can do a huge amount of terms of salary increase without more help."

There is a shortage of teaching assistants in Kent. Stock picture
There is a shortage of teaching assistants in Kent. Stock picture

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson's government has launched plans to provide more employment opportunities for young children, aged 16 to 24, who are on Universal Credit. This started during the pandemic last year.

Recently, six-month paid placements have been made available across Kent in mainstream and special educational needs schools, until the end of March 2022, according to KCC.

Under the 26-week training programme, youngsters can become more employable by learning new skills of communication, time management and teamwork.

The roles are 25 hours per week and paid at the national minimum for those aged under 23 or living wage, which varies between £4.62 for those under the age of 18 and £8.91 per hour for people aged over 23.

On being a teaching assistant, Mr Brookes added: "Being a teaching assistant is a worthwhile job.

"Working with young people, you can see what you are doing is helpful and relevant. Most often helping the most vulnerable students grow, which is tremendously satisfying."

Young residents can apply by clicking here

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