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Council makes ‘final offer’ to teaching assistants

The pay dispute which has now lasted for two years. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Durham County Council has made what it describes as a “final offer” to teaching assistants, to try to resolve a pay dispute which has now lasted for two years.

The proposal includes extra support around career progression for more than 450 teaching assistants who are due to lose money.

The council said it has made “a clear commitment to mitigate against the financial impact to teaching assistants.”

Councillors voted this morning to approve the offer. The trade union UNISON will now ballot its members over whether to accept the offer.

Durham County Council has made what it describes as a “final offer” Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The council says it needs to pay teaching assistants during term-times only, and only for the weekly hours they work, to avoid ‘equal pay’ legal challenges from other staff.

The dispute affects more than 2,000 teaching assistants across County Durham. Some were originally due to lose up to 23 per cent of their salaries, and hundreds took part in four days of strike action last autumn.

The council agreed to review their roles and responsibilities and created new pay grades. It produced a pay offer which meant a salary increase for 1,696 teaching assistants, and a decrease for 472.

Members of the smaller GMB and Unite unions accepted the offer, but it was rejected by UNISON - which represents the vast majority of County Durham teaching assistants.

The council says it needs to pay teaching assistants during term-times only Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The council’s “final offer” adds the following to the previous proposal:

  • Establishment of a teaching assistant career progression board
  • Establishment of a training programme to support teaching assistants in their roles and provide development for future career opportunities
  • Clarification of new job descriptions - and guidance to be provided to headteachers on flexibility over new contracts
  • A revised implementation date of 1 January 2018 with a two-year compensation period from that date

The council says it has now received more than 200 equal pay grievances from other staff across its workforce, creating “significant financial exposure.”

The proposals are dependent on teaching assistants working 37 hours per week, 40 weeks per year.

It’s been a long, hard road, but giving the county’s teaching assistants a role in finding solutions has convinced councillors to come up with a better offer.

Teaching assistants’ voices have been heard, and their experiences listened to. The new offer wouldn’t have been possible without their input.

The overall package puts us in a much better place, and is a substantial improvement on what was proposed a year ago. It gives us a firm basis on which to continue working with the Council over the next two years so everyone benefits from the changes.

– UNISON northern regional secretary Clare Williams

UNISON is now organising a series of meetings at schools across the county to explain the proposals to teaching assistants.

The results of its ballot of its 1,600 members are expected in October.