Don't take assistants out of schools, urge teachers and other experts
14 September 2023
Prague, 14 September 2023 - Teaching assistants have become an integral part of the teaching staff in Czech schools. However, some of them could lose up to half of their teaching assistant positions as a result of the so-called parameterisation. The organisations behind the #NebermeŠkolámAssistants initiative are therefore pointing out the shortcomings of the current proposal and recalling the essential contribution of the presence of teaching assistants to the quality of teaching for all children. The Special Education Staff Association, Society for All (SOFA), Co-Schools and the Teachers' Platform are part of the Initiative.
"The functioning of schools without teaching assistants is no longer conceivable, yet the public and many professionals outside the school field are confused about what exactly they do. They not only help children with special educational needs, but they form a tandem with teachers, their presence influences a good classroom climate, and they are beneficial to all children," explains Lenka Felcmanová, chairwoman of SOFA
"With our joint initiative we want to show how important these people are for schools. This is what the Ministry of Education is saying when it tries to adjust their funding so that it is sustainable and stable in the long term. However, we must point out that the currently proposed model of parameterisation would mean that children who need assistants would lose their support," adds Iva Janská, chair of the organisation Spoluškola, z. s.
Under the slogan #NebermeŠkolámAsistants , messages explaining why it is important not to reduce the number of teaching assistants will appear on the social networks of the initiative's members from 14 September. They are based on the testimonies of teachers, head teachers, principals and parents. They will be complemented by experts' opinions on the parameterisation proposal and their recommendations.
Parameterisation means that the position of teaching assistant will no longer be funded as a support measure for a specific pupil. Instead, a calculation taking into account various parameters will determine the range of assistant hours. This reflects, for example, the number of classes and children with special educational needs. "But it does not take into account the diverse needs of individual pupils, nor does it reflect the actual number of hours an assistant works. It seems that the calculated ranges of hours will not be sufficient in many cases," comments Petra Mazancová, chair of the professional organisation of teachers and school principals, Učitelská Platforma.
The organisations associated in the #NebermeŠkolámAsistants initiative agree that the Ministry's intention to institutionalise the position of teaching assistant by linking it to the school is good in principle. However, a blanket system cannot work without an element of individualisation where the parameters set do not ensure support for all pupils who desperately need it.
"For us, the parameterisation of teaching assistants is an important topic because as SPC staff we deal with recommending support for our clients on an essentially daily basis. We believe that the parameters as presented to us by the Ministry of Education are not entirely satisfactory and that the support will not be sufficient for most of our clients," says Zuzana Žampachová, Vice-Chair of Association of Special Education Centres (AP SPC).
The #NebermeSchoolAssistants initiative consists of:
AP SPC represents the interests of its members, the professional staff of special education centres. It cooperates closely, for example, with the National Institute of Education, the Association of Educational Psychological Counsellors, the Association of Educational Care Centres and the Ministry of Education. It participates in the drafting and commenting on professional documents and decrees. It organizes regular working meetings, meetings of its members (national, regional, professional sections / according to the type of disability).
Society for All (SOFA) is changing the Czech education system for the benefit of all children and young people. We are building an environment in schools that supports their diversity and helps them to fulfil their potential. We are committed to strengthening mental health and improving safeguarding for children at risk. We collaborate with leading Czech and international experts, bringing and disseminating proven practice. We connect systemic actors in the regions and at the national level. We comment on legislation and are involved in advisory and working groups of ministries and government offices.
Co-School, z.s., is committed to ensuring that all children, regardless of their current situation or educational needs, have the opportunity to develop their full educational potential and thereby increase their chances of a successful and happy life within the mainstream society. The main activities of the Co-School include providing free legal advice to parents of children with learning needs, organising seminars and distributing educational and information materials. The organisation also undertakes advocacy work in the field of education.
Teachers' Platform has over 1,900 members and is a professional association of teachers from kindergartens, primary schools, secondary schools, colleges and secondary schools who have joined together to improve the conditions of teachers' work and the quality of teaching. The aim of the Teachers' Platform is to actively enter into negotiations with the Ministry of Education and other organisations that influence education in the Czech Republic so that pupils and students receive the best possible education for the future in schools. We help teachers to be heard!
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