1. ITV Report

Durham County Council publishes 'final offer' in teaching assistants dispute

Hundreds of County Durham teaching assistants took part in strike action last year. Photo: ITV News Tyne Tees

Durham County Council has published what it describes as a "final offer" to teaching assistants, in a pay dispute which has lasted for two years.

More than 2,000 teaching assistants in schools across County Durham are affected by the dispute, which began in September 2015 and saw four days of strike action last autumn.

In July, members of the largest trade union UNISON voted to reject a proposal which would have seen the majority of TAs receive a pay rise - but 472 lose money.

  • Establish and support a teaching assistant career progression board
  • A training programme is established for teaching assistants to support them in their roles and to provide development for future career opportunities
  • Should the final offer be accepted, a revised implementation date of 1 January 2018 with a two year compensation period applicable from this date and the annual progression increment, where applicable, to be paid in April 2018
  • The Council will further clarify the requirements of the new job descriptions as well as providing guidance to headteachers on flexibility over the application of the new contractual arrangements

We have continued to listen carefully and I am pleased to say we now have a proposal that gives a greater understanding of some of the issues raised during negotiations, and we now hope that this will bring an end to this dispute.

By establishing a teaching assistant career progression board and a formal training programme to support our TAs into further career opportunities we believe we have done everything conceivably possible to provide ongoing support.

This final offer delays the implementation of the new terms and conditions until January 2018. The two year compensation offer will apply if this final offer is accepted and it is a joint aspiration of ourselves and trade unions that, as a result of the work of the progression board, any adverse impact on individuals will be minimised.

– Cllr Jane Brown - Cabinet member for social inclusion

Councillors are due to vote on the additions next Wednesday and, if approved, it's expected UNISON would then ballot its members on whether to accept the revised proposal.

Members of the smaller GMB and Unite unions accepted the previous offer.

Durham County Council has said that it needs to ensure teaching assistants are only paid for the hours and weeks they are contracted for, to avoid 'equal pay' legal challenges from other staff.