Comic artist Wim Stevenhagen made a short strip about the teaching assistant for the Education magazine.
Comic artist Wim Stevenhagen made a short strip about the teaching assistant for the Education magazine.

Fighting for a decent salary

Teaching assistants call their salary 'a pittance'. They think the difference with other teaching staff is too great. They can also work in childcare with their education and earn hundreds of euros more per month.

Angelique Engelmann, teaching assistant in secondary education, will stimulate the discussion on Facebook in the spring of 2021. She puts the salary of a teaching assistant next to that of a copy assistant cum tea pourer at a town hall. The starting salary for a teaching assistant is EUR 1753 gross per month*All amounts mentioned in this article are gross. (scale 4, primary education collective labor agreement 2021). That is only a few tens more than the minimum wage in the Netherlands. A facility employee at a municipality earns roughly 150 euros per month more. Engelmann writes: 'Every school thinks the children are the most important and every school wants the best people. Until it comes to paying. Then you'd better start delivering coffee.'

Teaching assistants even more often compare their payslips with those of pedagogical employees (PM staff) in childcare. Both come from roughly the same education: MBO pedagogical work level 4. If you choose the teaching assistant direction, you start with about 1750 euros per month for a full-time working week. In ten years' time, that amount will rise to a maximum of almost 2500 euros. If you take the exit to childcare, the starting monthly salary is about 2150 euros and you grow to more than 2900 euros in twelve years. That saves more than 400 euros per month.

Important side note: education has better fringe benefits. Think of a thirteenth month, more vacation days and a higher pension contribution from your employer. On the other hand, full-time work in childcare is 36 hours a week and 40 hours in education.

Image: Wim Stevenhagen

An often mentioned justification for the salary difference is that as a PM'er you are ultimately responsible for a group of children. As a teaching assistant you are not. At least not officially. In practice, it is commonplace that assistants replace teachers. This is increasingly happening for longer periods. It is also explicitly stated recruited on.

Talk like Brugman

Susanne Manders has worked as many teaching assistants in both sectors and finds the difference inexplicable. “I certainly don't want to disparage my former colleagues in childcare, but personally I think that more is expected of me in education. At school I am pedagogical, but also educational and didactic. And group responsibility? I wear those too, but then over the subgroups I work with. And when I'm filling in for a teacher, of course.”

Manders now has a permanent appointment for 34 hours a week. She calls her current salary 'reasonable' (teaching assistant C, scale 6). “I live in a rented house and can apply for housing benefit. But I don't have room to save for example. Buying a house independently – without a partner – is not possible. Actually, my income is in addition to what my boyfriend earns in construction. That doesn't feel right.”

Manders had to talk like Brugman to eventually reach scale 6 (see also the news item 'Revaluation of supporters is not getting off the ground'). “I started in scale 4 and have raised the subject about five times in recent years.” With varying degrees of success. “It's bad to keep having to put the lid on your nose. You are being treated as if you are asking a silly question.” Manders provided a package of evidence. Due to the collected feedback from colleagues and a log of completed tasks, her employer gave in and now pays her as a type C teaching assistant.

Image: Wim Stevenhagen

Angelique Engelmann is also in scale 6, but then of the collective labor agreement for secondary education. She feels her salary does not correspond to her duties and the flexibility expected of her. Moreover, according to Engelmann, daily practice does not correspond to how supporters work on paper. “It's really not like there's a teacher above you.”

Engelmann is a mentor of half a class, she replaces fellow teachers on an ad hoc basis when she drops out and teaches herself, within the 'world' learning area. She takes these classes on her own time. “As a result, other activities are being put on hold. I don't have a storage factor, like teachers. They give a fixed number of lessons per week and are also given time for preparation.”

While as a former senior secondary vocational education student she initially looked up to teachers, that has now changed. “I used to have HBO students high and mighty to sit. Then I thought wow: a teacher. But now I know: they are really not much wiser than I am. You become pedagogically stronger over the years. Filling in on maths for an hour, I don't turn my back on it anymore.”


In secondary education, Engelmann's experience is that support staff has difficulty progressing in the pay scales. “It is often said: You already do a few things 'on scale 7', but just not enough. That's how you are kept low." At her previous school, she was offered a bonus for tutoring and teaching people and society. She refused that amount. Engelmann: “It was a little extra for exceptional performances. In my case, I didn't think it was an exceptional achievement. And you remember someone else that amount.”

She therefore stopped to teach at her current school again. Why? Engelmann: “Actually, I should also say here: I don't do it anymore. I don't get extra time for it and I don't get paid better for it. But it's the raisins in the porridge. The challenge of working with a new level of children for me.”

Filling your backpack with new experiences is what teaching assistant and PM'er Hannie van Hoof calls this. “It's not always about wages, but also about the opportunity to learn and grow.” Van Hoof worked exclusively in childcare for 25 years, until the primary school in the same child center looked for a teaching assistant. Van Hoof: “I was looking for a new challenge. And it has a lot of added value to work for both organizations. I can bridge the gap between school and childcare.”

Image: Wim Stevenhagen

Van Hoof now works 20 hours a week at the out-of-school care and 16 hours as a teaching assistant at the nursery groups. She considers her salary as a teaching assistant in scale 4 'really a pittance'. Although being a PM at the day care is in her experience harder work than that of a teaching assistant. “At school, what I do is always based on the program the teacher makes. As a PM, you determine what happens in childcare. You do the treatment programs, the VVE document, the conversations with parents. You are really ultimately responsible and ensure that children are ready to go to primary school. I also have a lot on my mind at school, but being in the toddler group all day: I could be really tired of that.”

Because Van Hoof is on the payroll of two organizations, she pays extra payroll tax on the lowest salary – her education salary. “What I am left with from my work at school is therefore a complete joke. But I have consciously chosen this, because I am eager to learn and because I want to fill my backpack. I have already gained so much didactic experience.”


Engelmann, from secondary education, thinks that supporters too often rely on this 'soft' appreciation. “We have to fight for our salary, I am perhaps more keen on that than some colleagues. Schools or boards are systematically trying to value the profession less and at the same time make the tasks more difficult. That is not true." Oops often feel inferior to the rest, she notes. “They are happy to work with children. Or they say: I also get a chocolate letter with Sinterklaas. But then I think: dude, make sure you get a better salary, then you can buy chocolate letters every month. It's your pension, isn't it? You're not doing anything wrong if you're doing your best for your salary."

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