New offer aims to end long-running Durham dispute

Durham County Council has today (Wednesday) approved a revised offer that UNISON will now put to teaching assistants across the county.

The proposals are the result of lengthy negotiations – involving UNISON, teaching assistants, head teachers and council officers – aimed at bringing to an end the long-running dispute.

The offer sees the introduction of a new grading structure for teaching assistants and the setting up of a career progression board, which will include UNISON teaching assistant representatives. If the new offer is agreed, the board will start work immediately.

UNISON says the new proposals are an improvement on those made by the Council back in July, and are significantly different from the changes that were first announced in 2016.

Under the new proposals the overwhelming majority (87%) of UNISON teaching assistants would be regraded in January 2018, and would either get a pay rise, or their money would stay the same, says UNISON.

A written commitment from the Council underpins the establishment of the board, the setting up of special teaching assistant training courses and a compensation programme to run until January 2020.

This means that any teaching assistant not regraded straightaway will get tailored support to ensure they don’t lose money when the compensation period comes to an end.

UNISON northern regional secretary Clare Williams said: “It’s been a long, hard road, but giving the county’s teaching assistants a role in finding solutions has convinced councillors to come up with a better offer.

“Teaching assistants’ voices have been heard, and their experiences listened to. The new offer wouldn’t have been possible without their input.

“The overall package puts us in a much better place, and is a substantial improvement on what was proposed a year ago. It gives us a firm basis on which to continue working with the Council over the next two years so everyone benefits from the changes.”

UNISON is now organising a series of meetings at schools across the county to explain the proposals to teaching assistants.