Durham County Council approves new teaching contracts

Durham County Council has approved plans to terminate the 2,700 teaching assistant contracts and employ the teaching staff on new agreements with different terms and conditions.

The new contracts will mean teaching assistants will not be paid during school holidays, in a bid to generate a savings of £3 million per year. According to Durham County Council, the move would bring staff in-line with other employees and avoid the risk of equal pay challenges being made in the future.

The council report on the proposal stated: “The council has equal pay obligations and the current arrangements expose the council to the risk of equal pay claims that would have no realistic defence.

“Continuing such arrangements in this knowledge knowingly exposes the council to expensive claims that it will ultimately lose and would be an inappropriate approach to the council’s fiduciary obligation to protect the public purse.”

Nonetheless, teaching unions have opposed the new contracts, claiming the changes would cause teaching assistants to lose around £400 per month and have warned they would be balloting members for industrial action.

Helen Metcalf, Unison’s regional officer, said: "This is a devastating blow for the 2,700 teaching assistants in the county, who now face being driven into poverty and relying on food banks through losing £200 - £400 per month of their salary."