1.7 Developing teaching assistants in Wales
Through its Task and Finish Group on Digital Classroom Teaching Methods, the Welsh Government established 'Hwb' and 'Learning Wales' in 2012. .2) ()
Hwb includes 'Learning Wales', a website designed to support a variety of people in the school workforce, including learning support assistants in Wales. (https://hwb.gov.wales/ professional-development)
In 2013, the Welsh Government published the Action Plan to promote the role and development of school-based support staff in Wales available in 'Learning Wales' (Welsh Government, 2013a)
The scheme aims to:
- introduce an integrated set of professional / occupational standards for learning support staff in Wales
- revise the professional standards associated with Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) status
- harmonize induction programs for school-based learning support staff to confirm expectations and roles
- introduce a new performance management model policy for learning support staff
- target training and development of learning support staff alongside other school staff, as part of wider continuing professional development (CPD) strategies.
Alongside this new Welsh Government commitment to address the professional development needs of learning support assistants, details were provided of a range of resources that will help to do this. These resources include a national support program to deliver the literacy and numeracy framework (LNF), resources for practitioners to evaluate and improve their own literacy and numeracy skills, an online self-assessment tool, establishing professional learning communities (PLCs) and the 'Welsh Language Sabbaticals Scheme'. This Sabbatical Scheme offers a five week entry level Welsh course to all primary practitioners working in English medium schools to help them develop vocabulary and language skills relevant to primary practice.
The Welsh Government's Action Plan to promote the role and development of support staff in schools in Wales acknowledged that 'historically, little information has been collected about [teaching in Wales] support staff which makes up a significant proportion of the school workforce (44 per cent). This means that there is little information about their current roles, pay levels and qualifications and development needs, to inform policy interventions and developments. ' The plan sets out an intention to gather more statistical data on learning support assistants in Wales, so that the Welsh Government can '[fulfill] the commitment to school support staff in Wales [and] provide a highly skilled workforce for all schools in Wales.' (ibid, p.4). While learning support assistants in Wales' support teachers and work directly with learners', there has also been progress, as seen elsewhere in the UK, in 'other support roles that schools rely on to ensure that the school is effectively administered, [which] frees teachers and headteachers to focus on their core purpose of providing a high quality teaching and learning service.' (ibid, p.2)