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

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Teaching assistants: Support in action (Wales)

1.5 Ways of working and contributing

The physical design of most primary schools reflects the expectation that teachers work in classrooms with large numbers of children. In fact, given their large classes, most schools feel quite crowded. The employment of teaching assistants has doubled the number of adults working in some classrooms and, as Schlapp and Davidson (2001) note, this has sometimes led to problems in teaching assistants finding work spaces they can call their own. Often they give support while working alongside teachers, but some is done in another location. In their survey of 275 teaching assistants in two English local authorities, Hancock et al. (2002) found that 91 per cent said they sometimes withdrew children from classrooms.

Described image
Figure 3 Cindy Bhuhi, bilingual teaching assistant, Lee Infants School, Slough

There is a further sense in which teaching assistants have needed to find ‘space’ for their work. As part of a relatively new workforce, they have had to integrate their support practice with teachers’ ongoing teaching practice and to work as part of a classroom teaching team.

Activity 2 Contexts for learning support

Timing: 40 minutes

The following video features teaching assistants in many working contexts. The nine short clips within this video were recorded during visits to primary schools across the UK.

As you view, make notes in the box below on the roles and the contexts of these teaching assistants. If you are currently or have previously been in a learning support role, consider the extent to which your role and your various working contexts are represented by people in this sequence. Which teaching assistant roles are most like yours?

Download this video clip.Video player: e111r_b1_2012j_v001-640x360.mp4
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Transcript

SPEAKER 1
What colour is it?
SPEAKER 2
Red.
SPEAKER 1
All right, if it is a red, what you can't do with them?
BILLIE HUDSON
Keep still.
SPEAKER 1
But with that one, I show you something, didn't I?
BILLIE HUDSON
I work with Zoe on a one-to-one basis, daily, all week, in Foundation. I support Zoe in the classroom. She does exactly what everybody else does, but obviously, I will support her alongside the activities she has to do.
A one-to-one is quite a demanding, it can be a quite demanding role, especially if you have a child with behavioural issues, which Zoe can have at times.
Put the story back. Listen. You want to go and find a different game?
ZOE
Yeah.
BILLIE HUDSON
Come on, then. Put the book back. Let's go.
Any TA will always say, have a plan B. If it doesn't work, you've got something ready to try. And if that doesn't work, then you have another one ready.
ZOE
School four. There's four.
BILLIE HUDSON
I'll hold it. You spin. Go.
You have to step away sometimes. Because you find your patience is only so much. So another adult can then intervene, and they say, oh, we'll try, and she does it sometimes better. It's like she pushes the boundaries with the person she's with.
JAMES GALLOWAY
Rules of Diner's Club. Don't, not pushing it in my face. Have you done the writing on the back?
SPEAKER 3
Yeah.
JAMES GALLOWAY
OK.
I've worked with the Youth Offending Service as a community panel member with restorative justice.
Alesha, you can go out if you want, or you can stay in and play games or draw ...
My main role in the school is to support the behaviour of the children in class. I do that in a number of ways. If a teacher needs support with an incident, I go and withdraw that child, and help them work through any issues as quickly as possible.
But why are you getting ones?
My biggest role is Diner's Club, which is about getting children on individual behaviour plans, who at the start of lunch come to see me in my room, and we go through if they've met their targets for the day.
ALESHA
So, I'm going.
JAMES GALLOWAY
Tyler came up to you and asked you for a fight, didn't he? What's the way forward in future? If someone asks you for a fight, what do you need to do?
KAI
Tell the teacher.
JAMES GALLOWAY
You'd tell the teacher, yeah. And I know you can do that, 'cause you're the most honest person I've ever met, Kai. If you've done something wrong, even if no one saw it, you will tell if someone asks you how your lunchtime has been.
A big part of the work I do with the children is about making choices, which I believe marries up to restorative justice. Restorative justice builds responsibility, and the children, at a young age, learn that their choices are theirs. If they choose to behave in a certain way, the outcome is their responsibility.
ALESHA
Well, it's not going to say me Alesha on my [INAUDIBLE].
JAMES GALLOWAY
Take care, girls.
SPEAKER 4
Bye.
JAMES GALLOWAY
Bye.
ALESHA
Bye.
ALYS TAYLOR
You're like frogs in a pond, aren't you? Can you have a go, John Paul? Just wait two seconds. Oh, you go. John Paul.
I work mainly with Play to Learn, taking small groups, 6 to 12 children at a time.
Well done. Bending your knees when you jump off the end of the benches, so you don't hurt yourself.
I liaise with the PE teacher as well, and the head of Foundation Phase. And we plan together. I did A-levels. Then as soon as I left school, I went to be a nanny for four children. One was a baby. One was three, one was seven, and one was nine.
We're going to play a little game.
It just taught me a lot about being close with children and getting on a personal level with them.
Two little girls. I wonder who will be last in. Good girl, Allie. Keep going.
SPEAKER 5
Can I say a colour for them?
ALYS TAYLOR
Everybody stand on something blue. Well done, Allie. Allie was the winner. Should we give her a clap?
[APPLAUSE]
ALYS TAYLOR
Well done. Right, we're going to put our shoes and socks back on now then.
From taking the girls to school, they had this system where you would go in and read, and I really enjoyed it. And I applied and the head teacher offered me a position in reception. And then I said 'yes', straight away.
Good boy. That's the wrong foot.
MANDY LEWIS
OK. Does it use mains electricity or batteries?
SPEAKER 6
Mains electricity.
MANDY LEWIS
When I'm working with Keeley, it's very much in partnership. And I'll quite often draw Keeley into the lesson. I'll ask her a question, or she'll ask me a question, and we ask the children to answer it.
Decide which one.
KEELEY FLEMING
I reinforce what the teacher's saying. I may have my own group, but I'm still there as well for the rest of the class. And if Mandy's doing something in particular, and the kids start making a little bit of noise or they're not listening, then I draw their attention back to the teacher.
MANDY LEWIS
It's my job to plan the lesson, to know what's going on in the lesson, and how the children learn best. But I share that knowledge with Keeley, because Keeley's got that knowledge as well.
I want to make a circuit.
[PLAYING DRUM]
PETER WOOLSTON
I was lucky to take a retirement seven years ago. My wife was a schoolteacher, and I used to help her, occasionally. I came to school and I did an NVQ 3. My role is support in class. I also take out special groups for numeracy and literacy sessions.
SPEAKER 7
Do you want jacket potato?
SPEAKER 8
[INAUDIBLE] please.
PETER WOOLSTON
I also support by looking after the canteen at lunchtimes. Playgrounds and just general areas around the school.
[BLOWING WHISTLE]
[BLOWING WHISTLE]
PETER WOOLSTON
I'm an elderly gentleman who has found a new career. I think the children do invigorate me.
Tea on one and three. Tea on one and three. One, two, three, four. Tea, rest, tea, rest, tea, rest.
The total lifelong learning. It is, for me, lifelong learning. I've learned innumerable skills, music being one of them now, as well.
One, two, three, four. Tea, rest, cappuccino, rest, tea.
HELEN WILKINSON
What do you think this is?
SPEAKER 9
Apple.
HELEN WILKINSON
Right, OK. This is actually pip. Look at me. Pip.
At the moment, I'm between two classes. I do alternative days. That's every morning in each class, and every afternoon, we join together.
Pip. Don't do that, 'cause he can't hear us.
It's quite tiring. I'm going to be honest. It's hard work. I have two sets of everything. So we're talking two sets of reading folders, two sets of observation sheets that I have to do.
Your go. What have you got in front of you, Jacob?
JACOB
Mop.
HELEN WILKINSON
Mop. Did you hear what he's got? He's got ... say it.
SPEAKER 10
Mop.
HELEN WILKINSON
Mop.
It's hard starting with a new teacher, because I've got my ways and they've got their ways. But finding an even balance, I think, is the best thing. And just a good friendship and partnership.
George. Miss Trillow is going to be so proud of you.
I love it. I feel like there's a sense of purpose of my living, really. And still to this day, I have mums grab me in the street and say, oh, she remembers you when she was five. You know, you know. And I think, oh, have I been working there that long? But I love my job.
So, but running would be too long ...
MISS ARMSTRONG
Stop. Andy, you were right. Well done. And if you see me show that sign ...
SPEAKER 11
We've got two teachers in our class, because one of them has to sign to [INAUDIBLE] Mel and Liam. And the other one, Miss Armstrong ...
SPEAKER 12
Teaches us.
SPEAKER 11
Teaches us, who can hear.
SANDY NESBIT
Good. Do a different one.
Well, the children I'm directly responsible for are the hearing-impaired children. We group them with children of varying abilities. The ones that are more visual, so they can learn, watch what they're doing. And then they just look to me for reassurance that they're going to be safe.
SPEAKER 13
We're not doing the grid this time.
STEVE WALKER
I want learning to be fun as playing football outside or basketball and all. it's fun. Kids are laughing. If kids are laughing, they're enjoying it. If they're sat in class and they're doing maths or English, why shouldn't they be able to laugh and do it? Everyone just head down, dead serious, it's like, mm. There's no fun to this.
2 metres?
SPEAKER 14
Yeah.
STEVE WALKER
Oh, OK.
SPEAKER 13
Steve's a fantastic role model. He's built positive relationships with staff and children. And he, as a man in a primary school, has made great strides to help break down barriers, the perceived barriers, that might be in school.
STEVE WALKER
They have to take the work home, some of it. Homework and stuff. And obviously, parents are seeing it and that. And some of them would rather parents see a blank page. Then they can't see whether it were right or wrong.
But at least now the confidence, they're having a go at doing it, and going, oh, me Mum and Dad's happy, aren't they? And they're coming back tomorrow and they'll want more.
SPEAKER 13
Number 12.
SPEAKER 4
Five point ... five point ...
STEVE WALKER
I think I can get results because I've come from where they've come from. It's like we're on a level.
SPEAKER 13
OK, then, Danica. How many centimetres is it?
STEVE WALKER
One, 200 centimetres.
DANICA
Is it?
STEVE WALKER
It's 200 centimetres.
DANICA
Is it 2 metres?
SPEAKER 13
How many centimetres is it? How many centimetres? You said.
STEVE WALKER
It's 200 centimetres ...
ALISON GREENWOOD
Six, seven, eight, nine. Are there nine people on this table?
KIDS
No.
ALISON GREENWOOD
That must mean, you know, that somebody has voted, or a couple of people have voted more than once. So those results don't mean anything to me.
In my maths lesson, I was looking at data, which is something, in year one, they haven't looked at before. It's quite a hard thing, I think, for year one to get to grips with.
Remember to only vote once. I'm going to leave this table and see if they can sort it out while I go across to these tables. OK, looking this way. Oh, we've got five people on this table ...
As a high-level teaching assistant, I think you do have to be quite flexible. And I think you have to be quite confident in what you're delivering. Within the year groups, I teach a completely different range of different subjects. And obviously, with five different year groups, there are different levels as well.
I think you have to be quite confident in your ability, and show the children that you're quite confident in what you're doing. I think the amount of planning and marking and assessment that you have to do is a huge jump from what you would do as a Level Three.
That's amazing. I've compared them, and they look the same. And I'm going to ask, this time, Sophia, how many people like red grapes?
SOPHIA
Three.
ALISON GREENWOOD
How many people liked – how many people liked melon? Three. The same.
The difference, I think, between HLTAs and teachers is, obviously, the overall responsibility for the class is with the class teacher. On a day-to-day basis delivering the lesson, there's not a huge difference. But I think it's more to do with the outcome and the overall responsibility for the class.
I'm looking round to see who's sitting very, very still.
End transcript
 
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Comment

Teachers were once expected to work in schools without the kind of support provided by the teaching assistants in this video, so it is worth considering how teaching assistants have been ‘added’ to and integrated within the primary school workforce. Staff in primary schools would no doubt argue that this is long overdue, since more adults are necessary if they are to meet children’s personal, social and educational needs. Officially, the justification for this provision has been that teaching assistants help to ‘raise standards’ in measured areas of the curriculum. Clearly, this is important, but it seems to underplay the much wider nature of their contribution. For instance, the sequence reveals the ability of all teaching assistants not only to support learning but also to interact with and relate to children in ways that enhance their self-image and experience of school life.

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