‘Teachers are being exploited’

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A COOKSTOWN schoolteacher and President of the Ulster Teachers’ Union believes teachers are being exploited.

Stephen McCord, who is originally from Cookstown, said he believes teachers who can’t get teaching jobs are being taken on as ‘cheap labour’ to be classroom assistants but are expected to lead lessons as well.

If you wouldn’t let an unqualified doctor treat your child why would you allow an unqualified teacher educate them?

That’s the question posed by Mr McCord who was responding to the growing trend in England where unqualified staff are taking lessons - an issue tackled by a range of the UK teaching unions during their recent annual conferences.

“Although the situation here is different we must, as a profession, take a stand against anything which undermines or devalues that profession,” said Stephen, a teacher at Glastry College, Newtownards.

“Although we do not have unqualified teachers taking lessons in our schools, we too are seeing a cynical attack on the status of our profession from another direction.

“Qualified teachers employed as classroom assistants are facing ‘moral pressure’ to undertake unpaid work. Often young graduates who cannot secure work in their chosen field, they risk becoming ‘cut-price teachers,” he said.

Mr McCord said in the present economic climate of teacher redundancies and with the lack of permanent posts for qualified teachers, it is important that members are fully supported and not made to carry out duties beyond the pay they receive.

“There is always the risk when school budgets are so stretched that teaching assistants qualified as teachers may be asked to take lessons for absentee teachers so schools don’t have to pay for supply staff.

“This is an abuse and against the employers’ guidance. Teaching assistants should not be required to plan lessons and deliver lessons - it is not usually part of their contract or their job description and they shouldn’t be doing that,” he added.