A study by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) involving more than 1,435 support staff in state-funded UK schools found that 32 per cent of them said they cover lessons for absent teachers. This included a quarter of the teaching assistants who responded.
Of the 400-plus who stand in for the regular class teacher when they are off sick or on a training course, 60 per cent said they undertook the same work as fully qualified teachers.
More than 70 per cent of support staff said they delivered lessons when they supervised a class, while two-thirds said they have to prepare work for the children to do. A fifth of the support staff said they covered more lessons during the last school year (2012/13) than the year before.
One higher level teaching assistant told the study: “I prepare, teach and mark at least four lessons for two year 7 bottom-set classes, and a year 8 set 3 for at least three hours a week.”
A cover supervisor added: “We are expected to teach subjects, answer questions, supervise controlled GCSE coursework, and make up lessons on the spot. I have even been asked to give copies of lessons I have prepared to members of teaching staff.”
In most instances, support staff only cover classes if the regular teacher is off sick, on training or unavailable for a few days. However, nearly a third (31 per cent) of those used to cover lessons say they take classes for longer than three days.
Dr Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary, said: “We are totally opposed to this exploitation of support staff who are being used as a cheap option to teachers. It is grossly unfair on them and on the children and their parents who rightly expect their children to be taught by qualified teachers.”