Monday, 4 July 2016

In Anticipation

Just sent to

Dear Mr Posner,

On 31st January, Durham County Council will sack all 2700 of its Teaching Assistants. On 1st January, it will rehire them on a 25 per cent pay cut.

Many will leave, through force of economic circumstances.

Most will stop doing much or all of the vast amount that they do over and above that which is contractually required of them, since they will need to take second jobs. 

Recruitment will become practically impossible, and that appears to be the intention.

The adverse effects will be felt disproportionately by children with disabilities, and by children from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller backgrounds, as well as by children with English as an additional language, and by members of other ethnic minorities, socially excluded groups, and so on.

Since the disabled and GRT people were of course victims of the Holocaust on an enormous scale, I am writing to ask you to reconsider the position of the Leader of Durham County Council, Councillor Simon Henig, as a Patron of the Anne Frank Trust. 

His continuation in that position would be likely to result in well-publicised demonstrations against your organisation’s events and projects by disabled people and our supporters, by campaigners against racism, and by others, including members of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community.

Such demonstrations would also be highly likely at County Hall in Durham, at the venues of Councillor Henig’s surgeries, at his places of work, at his home, and so forth.

Councillor Henig’s surgeries are held on the first Tuesday of the month at Chester-le-Street library at 6:30pm, on the second Friday of the month at Bullion Hall in Chester-le-Street at 10am, and on the second Friday of the month at the Brockwell Centre in Pelton Fell at 11am.

Councillor Henig’s places of work are The David Goldman Informatics Centre, St Peter’s Way, Sunderland, SR6 0DD; Forster Building, Chester Road, Sunderland, SR1 3SD; and Priestman Building, Green Terrace, Sunderland, SR1 3PZ.

Councillor Henig’s home is 22 Rickleton Avenue, Chester-le-Street, County Durham, DH3 4AE.

I trust that those to whom this email has been copied [mostly a long list of Gypsy, Roma, Traveller and anti-racist activists, some of them very radical indeed] will spread the word far and wide.

With every thanks in anticipation of your speedy action.

Yours sincerely,

David Lindsay


  1. Jeremy Corbyn and the Teaching Assistants are both very lucky to have you on their side. Let's get a thousand Gypsies into Henig's garden and see how quickly things move.

    1. An ethnic group at least 500 years old in England, and probably older than that. Farage's Huguenots are recent immigrants by comparison.

    2. Yep, first definite record of them is 1514 in England and even longer ago, 1505, in Scotland. Isn't Durham a bit of a centre of the study of them?

    3. There are people at Durham trying to find the "five or six families in Wales" that are always still said to speak Romani. They have been looking for them for quite some time.

      Those fond of branding others "chavs" seem to be blissfully unaware that they are speaking Romani when they do so. Del Boy Trotter's "kushti" is also of that origin, as are numerous other regionalisms around the country. I was once told that "lollipop" was, although I do not know whether or not that is true.

      They have been here a long time. Their influence is considerable.

    4. They struggle academically, which is why the TAs' work with them is so important, but they are a dream to teach where discipline is concerned. They are one of the last bastions of the view that being in trouble at school means being in trouble at home.

    5. A family of Irish Travellers turns up in this parish around this time of the year, and the children are beautifully behaved.

      They all, parents and children alike, have broad Irish accents, the heaviest that I have ever heard, even though, or perhaps because, I do not think that any of them has ever been to Ireland.

      Very enclosed communities, who need support at school. But who do welcome it. Yet the council is taking it away.

      Of course, Special Needs is only part of what TAs do. Schools would pretty much collapse without them, as without several other categories of people. Everyone understands that. Apart from Durham County Council.

    6. DCC has always been 25 years behind everyone else.

    7. Hasn't it just? It turns out that Durham's TAs were already the lowest paid in the country, even before this cut. The council is still thinking in terms of 1960s parent helpers.

    8. Exactly. There were always Teaching Assistants but they were called other things. The whole thing professionalised from the 70s on and every authority except Durham pretty much kept up with that professionalisation. But Durham just never seems to have noticed.

    9. Indeed. Obviously, it implemented the evolving national requirements as to who was allowed to do the work, and as to what that work itself was. But it hardly seems to have noticed that it was doing so.

      Councillors and officers alike in Durham seem to think that TAs are housewives washing paint pots in order to give themselves something to do, and being paid out of petty cash.

      Yet, to my certain knowledge, the Special Needs work has been going on in mainstream schools since the 1980s, and it does not seem to have been new then. Never mind all the rest.

  2. Secondary schools could with great difficulty get by without TAs for perhaps a week, but a one day strike by them would stretch any primary school to breaking point. If they quietly work to rule because of this cut then that might happen without anything official being written down. The council haven't got a clue.

    1. Not for the first time, it is notable that one of the strongest opponents of this, although he is now an Independent, was a Labour District Councillor for 30 years, and was the Leader of that authority for 18 years until its abolition. He is also the Patron of my campaign.

      The old District Councils were far more worldly wise. A lot of the Labour lot who joined the County Council at the time of the transition to unitary local government said that they were going to change it. But instead, it has changed them. And not for the better.