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Tears as primary school loses long-serving staff it cannot afford to replace

Teaching assistants ‘in twilight of careers’ bow out to help cash-strapped primary

20 June, 2019 — By Helen Chapman

Teaching assistants Pauline Bradley, Linda Hill and Terry Little: ‘An impact on hundreds of children’

THREE teaching assistants are taking voluntary redundancy at a primary school in Tufnell Park which has warned parents that it cannot afford to replace them.

Eleanor Palmer, in Lup­ton Street, is bidding fare­well to Pauline Brad­ley, Linda Hill and Terry Little, who have a combined service of almost 100 years.

Kate Frood, the school’s headteacher for 18 years, said: “They volunteered to take redundancy because we have to restructure, and that’s a function of the budget. In a perfect world, I would not want to lose them and I would love to replace them. They are wonderful. We are losing an incredible body of knowledge.”

She added: “People have been in tears since this news broke. Schools are not just about systems and structures, they are about relationships and people.” The pressure on the budget is the latest story coming out of Camden’s primary schools; 40 of them co-signed a letter earlier this month warning of the financial difficulties they face.

Ms Little, 67, who started at the school in 1987, said: “We are not by any means being forced out. We are at the twilight of our careers and those who are younger with families have their own chance now. When the time comes in September when we won’t be coming back to work, we won’t know how that feels until then.”

Ms Hill, 65, said that her work meant she was never bored, “but I also never get a minute to myself”.

She added: “Every day and every child is different. I always say every child here has something they are good at.” Ms Bradley, 65, recalled how when she started she had to clean paint pots at the end of the week. “We would bring the teacher their cup of tea – that is what the role was seen as,” she said.

“These days the job has changed and we have more responsibility and impact. There used to be a low expectation of what we were capable of. That all changed when Kate became headteacher. She trusted us to get on with it.”

Ms Frood added: “Some parents feel more comfortable talking to teaching assistants than teachers. I value that role in the school. They have had an impact on hundreds of children and have been a part of changing a child’s life.”

The school is “holding an open house” for parents, ex-pupils and staff to say goodbye on July 18. Gerald Clark, from Camden National Education Union, said: “Teaching assistants are a vital resource in our schools. It’s tragic that, despite our pleas for proper funding of schools, we are seeing them disappear from our classrooms.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “This year, under the national funding formula, schools in Camden will attract £6,251 per pupil on average, well above the national average of £4,689. The Secretary of State has made clear, as we app­roach the next spending review, he will back headteachers to have the resources they need.”

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