MORE than one thousand people descended on the streets of Durham City to show their support for teaching assistants this weekend.
School workers and trade union activists from the county were joined by fellow professionals from across the country on Saturday for the march in what was labelled a show of solidarity.
After meeting in Millennium Square, the chanting protestors snaked their way through the crowded city to the Miners’ Hall at Redhills - calling on Durham County Council (DCC) for “fairness” and “certainty2 in what has been a bitter 18-month dispute over pay and contracts.
Anne Richardson, chairman of Durham County Teaching Assistant Activists Committee, said: “This was organised as a solidarity event. Since Christmas when we went on strike and the council decided to suspend our dismissal, the public thought we had gone quiet.
“We’re not going to go quiet until it’s a done deal. A lot of the teaching assistants have been through a lot of stress and they say they can’t sit quiet and relax until we know we’ve got a piece of paper that says ‘I’m secure in my job’.”
Following the march a rally was held at the Miners’ Hall where 400 packed in to hear ten speakers - with another estimated 200 people listening from outside.
Among the speakers were leaders from the NUT, ATL, Durham Trade Council, Unison, three Durham teaching assistants and a teaching assistant from Derby.
It was also announced the campaign had received the support of acclaimed director Ken Loach and Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell MP.
Jan Clymo, campaign press officer, said: “The march was purely to say thank you to our supporters and let people know we’re not going away and we’re still fighting. We had a wonderful day and everybody in the committee was delighted by the public support.”
Leader of DCC Cllr Simon Henig last week said a review of teaching assistant roles and job descriptions was “extremely close” to confirming new grading proposals - expected to be put to staff in the next few weeks.
The announcement followed a council U-turn in December, when it agreed to suspend plans to sack and re-hire teaching assistants following strike action over proposed new contracts.