Patricia Barrett works as a higher level teaching assistant (HLTA) at Kingslea Primary School, Horsham.
She covers for teachers and is a key worker for ‘pupil premium’ children, ensuring they have access to the same opportunities as their peers. She supports teaching across all age groups from years 1 to 6.
Patricia has been a UNISON member for eight years, with three of those as a workplace rep.
“I was greatly influenced by my Dad,” said Patricia. “He was a hospital union steward when he worked for the health service, so being a union rep is in my blood!
“I’ve been involved in collective negotiations involving terms and conditions of employment and changes to employee rights such as sickness absence. I go to preliminary discussions so I can advise members before they attend important meetings. I find most problems can be tackled informally by having conversations between parties at a very early stage. It really prevents problems escalating into formal procedures.
“One of the main national issues for me at the moment is the government’s failure to recognise the recently published professional standards for TAs. The government needs to make sure our pay reflects our skills and abilities.
“We don’t yet know the impact of school funding cuts on Kingslea, but we do know the government is strangling school budgets. TAs are not a luxury. We have an essential role,
especially in the education of SEND children.”