Sending love to teaching assistants
TAs and HLTAs are the hidden gems of the education system. September National Teaching Assistants Day celebrates their contributions to schools, pupils, teachers and the wider community…
No exaggeration: teaching assistants (TAs) and Higher Level Teaching Assistants (HLTAs) are the glue that hold schools together. They carry out a multitude of duties and have a multitude of responsibilities.
TAs and HLTAs often bring expertise from previous careers and own interests that enrich the curriculum and the life of the school. They work one-to-one with children who have severe, profound or multiple Special Educational Needs, with children who have behavioural issues and in classes supporting the learning of the whole class in conjunction with the teachers.
But this is the tip of the iceberg! TAs and HLTAs can be found developing and using specialist skills in Literacy and Numeracy, PE and Music, Design and Technology, nurture, to name but a few; HLTAs have to identify an area of expertise as part of their assessment.
This drive to learn and develop is a result of having a thirst for knowledge and training; the schools that do best, invest not only in developing their TAs and HLTAs, but also in training their teachers in how to work collaboratively with these staff.
TAs and HLTAs are often the conduit to parents. They can be seen as the first port of call as they are usually of the area and known to the parents. They act as a bridge between community and school, carefully balancing their position in the locality with their professionalism with the school.
As a result of their professionalism, TAs and HLTAs often go above and beyond their job description (and their pay grade), giving their time freely, and covering for gaps in school budgets.
We recognise this dedication annually with our HLTA awards. This year, Debbie Farmer, from Mapperley C of E Primary School, was awarded the most outstanding Higher Level Teaching Assistant for the East Midlands for her “boundless enthusiasm to plan and lead whole school initiatives as well as her dedication and commitment to ensuring the pupils have a rich and vibrant school experience”.
Our experience of working with TAs and HLTAs has shown us the depth of commitment they bring to their work and the joy they experience from the day to day involvement in the education of children and young people. They celebrate and broadcast pupils’ successes, from the smallest step to the largest jump. Their commitment is recognised not only by those of us fortunate enough to work with them at the University but also by their schools.
Within education the importance of Teaching Assistants is being recognised more and more through performance management and training opportunities. The wisest schools value not only the easily measurable, e.g. TA impact on pupil performance, but the intangible, the impact that TAs have on emotional wellbeing and it is this unseen role, the dealing with bruised knees and bruised hearts, that holds the school together.