BILINGUAL teaching assistants are highlighting the critical role they play in schools.
They have responded to criticism in September from Thornhill Tory councillor Imtiaz Ameen.
He criticised bilingual staff for providing a disincentive for pupils from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds to speak English.
He said the assistants did not improve the English spoken by children and that by employing them, Kirklees Council was wasting a large slice of £4m given by the Government for the council's Ethnic Minority Achievement project.
But the public sector union UNISON in Kirklees has met with a group of angry teaching assistants collecting names on a petition reaffirming the crucial role they play in schools.
They say pupils are quickly integrated into the life of the school with their help.
A UNISON spokesman said of the teaching assistants: "They encourage parents to participate and involve themselves in school life.
"They evaluate and develop children's education. They ensure that all pupils play a part in the school and have helped hundreds of pupils reach their full potential."
The signatures will be handed in at one of Clr Ameen's surgeries.
He will also be invited into a school to see the work of bilingual teaching assistants for himself.