Brian Wilson announces 5,000 places for classroom assistants


Up to 5,000 new assistants will be recruited over the next three years to "support professional teachers in raising levels of attainment" Scottish Education Minister Brian Wilson announced today.

This move, which is being financed through the new Excellence Fund by an additional £10 million next year, rising to £36 million in 2001/2002, aims to achieve a ratio of one adult to every 15 pupils in the primary sector by 2002.

Mr Wilson said:

"This exciting new initiative will mean more jobs and training right across the country and give a large number of people the chance to work in their local primary school, contributing to the education of local children. The classroom assistants work will be varied, including administrative tasks, general supervision of pupils, support for basic skills such as literacy and numeracy and other forms of support to teachers.

"I am committed to relieving teachers of administrative tasks and helping them to concentrate on raising the attainment of our children. This substantial injection of new resources into primary schools will go a long way to achieving this aim.

"Our plans for classroom assistants go much further than ever before. With appropriate training and under the direction of professional teachers, assistants will support the learning process. They will not be teachers and they will not replace teachers, but they will be able to help children in developing their skills in the key areas of literacy and numeracy as well as providing help, support and encouragement to pupils.

"This is a challenging initiative which we intend to take forward in partnership. The Scottish Office will write to seek representatives from local authorities, schools, the teacher unions and others to help develop this programme. We will be looking to our partners in the further and higher education sectors to take an active part in developing and delivering appropriate training programmes for classroom assistants which aim, where practicable, at the achievement of SVQs and other accredited qualifications.

"This initiative adds to our commitment to reduce the number of pupils in primary classes for 5 7 year olds to 30 or less; our support for high quality pre school education for 3 and 4 year olds; the strengthening of the Early Intervention Programme to support early literacy; and our commitment of resources to modernising school buildings. Taken together these measures will give our children the best possible start in education."


1. Funding for the initiative will be £10 million in 1999/2000, £20 million in 2000/01 and £36 million in 2001/02. This is all new money and was allocated following the conclusion of the Comprehensive Spending Review. The provision of classroom assistants will be part of the Excellence Fund which will be an integrated initiative to raise standards in schools. Funds will be paid by specific grant, allocated for this purpose by a formula based on the number of primary pupils in the authorities' schools. Local authorities will have to submit plans for approval and annual monitoring returns.

2. Work on this programme is already underway. All local authorities have been invited to participate in a pilot programme to assess the most effective training, deployment, use and management of classroom assistants. Results from this and a value for money study into administrative tasks being undertaken by HMI and the Audit Commission will help inform implementation. Work will also commence this year on the development of a competency based training programme for assistants.

3. A programme of training will be established to enable new classroom assistants to provide support to teachers in their work with primary pupils. Training is likely to cover induction to the job, the role of the assistant, and basic teaching/classroom theory including an understanding of the essential features of primary education: the teacher, the curriculum, the school and child development. Training will equip the assistant to be deployed in any primary class and additional modules could be added to increase their skills in working with particular age groups or on particular issues or areas of expertise. We would expect there to be an opportunity for FE colleges with their expertise in work-based learning to be one of the main sources of external training advice/provision. As far as possible, training will lead to qualifications.

4. Implementation of the programme will be overseen by a Scottish Office Education and Industry Department working group, comprising representatives from local authorities, schools, the teacher unions and others with an interest.

News Release: 1436/98
14 July 1998