Classroom assistants perform a vital role in ensuring that every pupil receives as high a level of education as possible.
In Northern Ireland there are 45 special schools - including three hospital schools - and 170 special units attached to around 100 mainstream schools which cater for a wide range of special educational needs.
The five Education and Library Boards also operate specialist outreach support services for children with literacy problems and behaviour difficulties.
Assistants help in the classroom by providing a variety of services including individual instruction, working with special needs children, and clerical assistance.
Classroom assistants can work with the entire class, moving from pupil to pupil, or they can be assigned to one particular pupil who they help during lessons.
This could be with a pupil who has a learning difficulty and they would help that child with their studies, or it could be with a pupil with physical or mobility problems and in this case they would assist the child with any difficulties they may have.
In any case, classroom assistants play an important role in schools throughout Northern Ireland so that schools are able to meet health and safety requirements.
The presence of a classroom assistant allows the teacher to spend more time with students or in preparation for lessons. Classroom assistants can also help by providing supervision of a class during library or break time.
As today's industrial action proves, without classroom assistants hundreds of pupils throughout Northern Ireland would not be able to attend school.