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Teaching assistants: support in action (Wales)
Teaching assistants: support in action (Wales)

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1.3 Professional and personal skills

Jean Ionta works as a pupil support assistant at St Patrick’s Primary School in Glasgow. ‘Pupil support assistant’ has been the preferred name for teaching assistants in Scotland. They often provide both specialist learning support and more general support to teachers. When filming the videos for this unit at the school we focused on Jean as she went about her work with children and staff. We put these aspects of her work together to give a sense of her day and the professional and personal skills she brings to her role.

Activity 1 A day in the life

Timing: Allow about 1 hour
Described image
Figure 2 Jean Ionta, St Patrick’s Primary School, Glasgow

As you watch the following video note in the box below how Jean goes about her work, how she describes it and how others portray her contribution. In particular, make notes on how she puts an emphasis on children’s social and personal development and her part in this. How would you describe the way she is with children and her approach to supporting learning?

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Near the very end of the video Jean states that she feels ‘the children are relaxed with me’. This is a comment that appears to point to the many relationship-making opportunities that are shown in this video. Learning support work affords the making of relationships with children, perhaps in a way that is not often possible for qualified teachers. They often need to stand back to adopt an ‘overseeing’ and leadership role for large groups of children. In their close work with children, teaching assistants can have important different teaching opportunities. We would argue that, perhaps more than teachers, assistants have openings to develop approaches that are ‘intuitive’ (Houssart, 2011) and ‘nurturing’ (Hancock, 2012).