THREE teaching assistants have gained a prestigious new qualification.

Teresa Goodridge, of Starcross Primary School, Linda Baker, of Kenton Primary School, and Melanie Anstead, of Oaklands Special School, Dawlish, have been awarded the new Higher Level Teaching Assistant qualification or HLTA.

They joined nearly 150 other teaching assistants to be presented with their certificates by Devon County Council's chief executive Phil Norrey at a special conference in Exeter last week.

Dr Norrey praised them for their hard work and dedication in gaining the new qualification.

Teaching assistants support the work of teachers in the classroom. Their duties can include conducting detailed assessments and teaching literacy and maths skills to individuals, groups and whole classes.

To attain the new status, the teaching assistants were assessed against 31 exacting national standards.

Mark Freeman, the council's adviser for support staff, said: 'The standards for qualification have been set at a high level to provide assurance of the quality of the contribution made by HLTAs to pupils' teaching and learning.

'The status is only awarded upon the completion of a number of written tasks based on classroom practice, a visit to the school by an external assessor and subsequent rigorous regional and national moderation.

'It is encouraging to see increasing numbers of teaching assistants taking up this opportunity for professional and career development and increasing numbers of schools creating higher level teaching assistants posts.'