Supporting children's development
Supporting children's development

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Supporting children's development

1 Panel discussion

Activity 1

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

Watch and listen to the group’s discussion with Katie Harrison about her motivations, aspirations and experiences as a Higher Level Teaching Assistant.

Download this video clip.Video player: nnco_ta_1_s5_panel_discussion.mp4
Skip transcript

Transcript

Interview with Katie Harrison

Speakers:

Katie Harrison (Teaching Assistant)

Eddie Tunnah (Career and Employability Manager)

Isobel Shelton (Course Author)

Isobel:
Katie, can you tell us why you became a teaching assistant?
Katie:
I became a teaching assistant because I always knew that I wanted to work in schools. I did work experience in a school when I was in secondary school and it just seemed the right fit. And then I realised that a teaching assistant was probably the best job for me. I did think about teaching but then I got a job as a teaching assistant and I really enjoyed it, but I did – I then progressed on to becoming a higher level teaching assistant which does involve sometimes taking whole classes – so that’s quite nice. So you do get the extra responsibility sometimes but without necessarily all the pressure that comes with teaching.
Isobel:
Oh yes, that’s interesting!
Eddie:
Katie, can you say a bit more about how long you had been in the role before you went for the higher level role teaching assistant positon, and what did you have to do to make that happen?
Katie:
I was in the teaching assistant role for about two years and then I decided that yep I’d give it a go. So it took me about six months and I had to – there are two preparation days where you are classroom-based, learning more about the role and what you need to do. And then it’s activity-based coursework, so within school I would work with whole classes and groups, and set my own activities and then obviously write up how that went and how I could improve. And then it involved somebody coming in to assess through interviews. They interviewed me, they interviewed colleagues that I work with, so that was quite nice because then there wasn’t the pressure of observations.
Eddie:
Thank you.
Isobel:
Katie what sort of school do you work in?
Katie:
I work in a primary school, which is two form entry on the whole and then we have a couple of years where there’s only one class but they are quite large classes. It’s just about five minutes from a town centre, so we have quite a different mix of children that attend the school.
Isobel:
And can you describe to me a typical day in the life of a teaching assistant?
Katie:
Well yes. I arrive at school for about 8.45. That’s when I start, just before the children come in, so that I can help with any set up that needs doing. During my morning I will spend in the classroom with groups, so in literacy and in maths working with different ability groups to help them move on with their learning. And then I have intervention groups during assembly time, which are usually writing-based groups. And then in the afternoons, my afternoons do vary slightly depending on the day. I work one-to-one with a girl who has special needs and I do do group work as well within that, so yeah it just sort of depends on the day!
Isobel:
Which do you prefer – the group work or theone-to-one?
Katie:
I quite like the group work I think. Sometimes it’s nicer when you’ve got a group because the children can bounce ideas off each other and give each other support. Sometimes one-to-one is a little bit harder if maybe they’re not understanding because there is nobody else around to give them that bit of extra support.
Isobel:
You can build up a relationship with a child though on one-to-one?
Katie:
Yes, you can, yeah.
Eddie:
And with the one-to-one work, would you see that child every day of the week or would it be, say, for a couple of afternoons a week?
Katie:
It used to be that I saw her every day of the week. Now it’s currently three days of a week, just because we are trying to – we’re working on independence so we are starting to pull some of the support a little bit but I am always around so that if I need to I can jump in.
Eddie:
Thank you.
Eddie:
Katie, which parts of the job do you most enjoy?
Katie:
I’d say it’s watching the children learn and improve and knowing that I’ve played maybe a small part in that. There are a lot of people involved but yes that is really nice to see.
Eddie:
Can you give any particular example of – I don’t know – something that you’ve done that’s been really fulfilling?
Katie:
Yes. I work in lots of different areas of literacy and numeracy but in literacy I spent some time with a boy who was struggling with his phonics, which obviously meant that his reading wasn’t improving very much. And so I spent five minutes a day with him just going, repeatedly going over the sounds of the phase that he was in, which helped him because it was little and often and meant that he remembered it. And so then his reading did improve, which was really rewarding to see.
Isobel:
That sounds rewarding but it also sounds quite challenging. Do you have any other challenges in the role?
Katie:
Yes, it can be challenging, I find. I think a lot of people would probably say that behaviour can be sometimes the most challenging, and particularly low-level disruption in the class, so talking while they are on the carpet, or fidgeting – things like that. But we have a behaviour policy that we follow and it does work quite well actually within class.
It involves a traffic light system – so they start every day on amber and then they can move up so they can go up to green and then on a really good day they can go up to gold. But then, with the reverse, we do have a red zone as well, so that if a child is being difficult they will get a warning. If it carries on, they will move into the red zone. If it still carries on, then either the class teacher will deal with it or, should she not be in the room, they will go to another member of staff for a time out but they can – once they’ve had that and they come back in – they can earn their way back up so it doesn’t mean just because they’re in red in the morning that they will be there at the end of the day. They can work their way back out.
Isobel:
That sounds really positive.
Katie:
It is.
Isobel:
Incentivising.
Katie:
It is. And then if, on the rare occasion that we do have a child that starts in negative – finishes in red at the end of the day – they start again in amber the next day so it’s a new day, new start.
Isobel:
A new start – that’s good.
Eddie:
Katie, how has your job changed over time?
Katie:
I would say it has changed quite a lot. The role itself has changed because I find that because the workload on teachers has got bigger it filters down to the teaching assistants as well, particularly in terms of things like paperwork. Also there’s been the challenges of the curriculum changing, and when they did change it, then obviously the levels they used to use nationally disappeared and schools and clusters have had to find their own way I suppose to how they are going to assess, and it’s been a challenge to learn the new system and how to adapt it to the children that we work with.
Isobel:
You helped with the preparation of the module and I was just wondering whether there were any aspects of the module, or the four sections that you’ve been involved with, that you find might be of particular interest to teaching assistants?
Katie:
Yes, I think there are two that automatically spring to mind. The first would be the behaviour management module. As I say, that can be a challenge and there are lots of useful things within that module and also the special needs module because there are so many different aspects – the special needs and the different types of special needs that are out there – that actually it’s quite nice to have a little bit of an idea of what, you know, you might come across in school.
Isobel:
And you told me earlier that you work with children that have come up from the reception class and they are making quite a big transition to come into primary. Do you think teaching assistants have a role to play in helping with that transition?
Katie:
Yes, I think so because it’s quite a hard jump actually for them because how reception works and how Nursery will have worked before that is a lot different to Year 1 because obviously Year 1 is far more structured. So, I think, particularly at the beginning of the year, I spent a lot of time helping the children settle into the new routines and working with them so they didn’t feel very overwhelmed to start with.
Isobel:
A key stage in their development, isn’t it?
Katie:
Yes.
Isobel:
OK thank you.
Isobel:
What development opportunities are there available to teaching assistants? Or, in your own experience, what development opportunities have you been offered – either by the school or anyone else?
Katie:
Well within school we have inset days, which generally involve both teachers and teaching assistants. They tend to be quite specific – so anything regarding updates to policies or new schemes of work that they’ve got in to improve writing or reading, so that we’re all on the same page.
We have also had TA-specific training on phonics and maths interventions, different ways of trying to help the children learn and things like that, which work really well because it tends to be the teaching assistants that actually do the smaller groups.
Then outside of school I’m with the Union and they offer quite a lot of CPD to all their members so there’s kind of – it’s kind of a broad range. There’s things like behaviour management, we’ve done workshops on mental health and mindfulness, which you can do. They do run courses that you can attend and they also run online courses. So that’s very useful, as obviously you can’t always get to the courses. And they have a specific support staff conference as well now, within which they will run lots of opportunities for you to network with other support staff.
Isobel:
Sounds great.
Eddie:
And, Katie, what specific skills do you think you’ve developed in the role of Higher Level Teaching Assistant?
Katie:
I think there’s quite a few. I think obviously you need good listening skills – patience. Patience is a big one sometimes, particularly with the younger ones.
Eddie:
I can imagine.
Katie:
And I think kind of nurturing skills. Again, you find that quite a lot with the younger ones because I think school can be quite a daunting place when you are 4 or 5, and even some of the older ones, and it’s just being aware of their needs and helping them the best way that you can.
Eddie:
This module has encouraged readers to be reflective practitioners – in other words to think much more deeply about their own role. Can you tell us a bit about how this works in your school because I know that you have experience of being a reflective practitioner?
Katie:
Yes, it’s always quite useful to reflect on what you’re doing within, particularly, groups if you’ve got long running intervention groups for a few weeks, to reflect on how that’s going and whether or not changes need to be made. And also we do have observations. In my case, usually our deputy does that and she will observe us either within the class or with a group of children. And then obviously it’s useful because then we get feedback from her, and within that she will ask us what did we think went well with what we were doing, and also are there areas we could improve next time, which is really useful to think about because I don’t think people do that all the time, so it is really useful to do that. And then we will get set targets so that we know what we’re aiming towards to improve our practice.
Isobel:
OK, thank you.
Eddie:
And Katie, how do you see your career developing in the future?
Katie:
I think I would quite like to get more involved with the special needs side of being a teaching assistant because obviously I’ve mentioned there’s such a wide variety of different special needs and so it would be, I think, useful to sort of learn more in depth really about some of the issues that these children face and how we can help them within the school, particularly within mainstream school. I think that would be quite an interesting road to take.
Eddie:
What sort of things, activities? What do you think you would need to do to make that happen?
Katie:
I think hopefully attending some training courses. I know there are some out there. And also I’ve started working more closely with our SENCo so that I can get ideas from her and she’s been very useful at passing information on from courses she’s attended about different areas that I haven’t come across, so yes it’s been really useful.
Eddie:
That’s great, and good luck with that, Katie, and thank you very much for talking to us today. It’s been really interesting.
Isobel:
Yes, thank you very much, Katie, and thank you for all your contributions to the module.
Katie:
Thank you.
End transcript
 
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).
You can type text here, but this facility requires a free OU account. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).
CYM-SCD-E1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus