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What Value our Learning Support Assistants


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#1 Anne Jakins

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Posted 24 November 2004 - 10:20 PM

I work with a group of hard working and skilled Learning Support Assistants. The low salary and lack of proper career structure does not match the often high levels of paperwork and responsibility. I see our LSAs as one of the schools most valuable resources. Being an LSA should not be seen merely as a step towards being a teacher. Some LSAs are so put off by what they see in the classroom that they prefer to remain in the supporting role.As teachers do we use their skills as efficiently as we should do ? Effective communication is often an important issue.

#2 David Wilson

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Posted 27 November 2004 - 09:57 PM

>I see our LSAs as one of the schools most valuable resources.<

I agree, having provided in-class learning support myself in the days before LSAs appeared on the scene. The experience certainly stimulated and informed my professional interest in making subject teaching at secondary school level more inclusive. I have since dedicated a sizeable portion of my website at http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com to this very issue.

My SEN department is about to determine how effectively our LSAs and subject teachers collaborate. We are compiling a questionnaire to be distributed to departments. The questionnaire on page 9 of the excellent "Teaching Assistants' website" document at

http://www.fultonpub.....tants WEB.pdf

proved an excellent starting point when we pondered what we wanted to find out. Collaboration between LSAs and teachers is a two-way process and while LSAs are trained how to work with teachers, I wonder whether teachers are always trained how to work with LSAs.

David Wilson
http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com

#3 Anne Jakins

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Posted 23 December 2004 - 07:44 PM

Would be teachers seem increasingly to work in a supportive role in the classroom while deciding whether or not 'to take the plunge'. There cannot be a better way of gaining exposure to different teaching styles and learning those subtle classroom management techniques which are often difficult to describe. Teachers who have gone down this route have to be more able to communicate effectively with their LSAs. While some staff are really good at this others don't even acknowledge the presence of another adult in the classroom. I have worked with our LSAs and the MFL Department on a set of guidelines to address these issues. Collaboration is really important but often difficult in a rushed secondary school day.

#4 Andy Walker

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Posted 23 December 2004 - 08:00 PM

Would be teachers seem  increasingly to work in a supportive role in the classroom while deciding whether or not 'to take the plunge'. There  cannot be a better way of gaining exposure to different teaching styles and learning those subtle classroom management techniques which are often difficult to describe. Teachers who have gone down this route have to be more able to communicate effectively with their LSAs. While some staff are really good at this others don't even acknowledge the presence of another adult in the classroom. I have worked with our LSAs and the MFL Department on a set of guidelines to address these issues. Collaboration is really important but often difficult in a rushed secondary school day.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


It is also important for the teaching profession to work very closely with LSAs over a joint response to the Government's proposed reform to the teacher's pay structure. From what I understand incentive allowances for pastoral responsibility are set to be abolished and responsibility for this area of work handed to LSAs.
The only points available to teachers will be "teaching and learning" ones.

#5 David Wilson

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Posted 24 December 2004 - 12:21 PM

>Teachers who have gone down this route have to be more able to communicate effectively with their LSAs.<

Exactly the point I made in my previous posting:

>Collaboration between LSAs and teachers is a two-way process and while LSAs are trained how to work with teachers, I wonder whether teachers are always trained how to work with LSAs.<

Training is already in place to help LSAs work with teachers, but how many teachers are still expected to learn by "osmosis" how to get the best out of their LSAs? The returns from a questionnaire to subject departments at my school indicate that different teachers perceive the role of LSAs in different ways. Some are happy when LSAs confine their attention to the few students "entitled" by statements etc to such support. Others expect them to be an "extra hand" in the classroom, leaping to the assistance of anybody who requires it. Yet others won't countenance the presence of another adult in their classrooms unless their lessons are being formally "observed" by senior staff or Ofsted inspectors.

I agree that better communication would help reconcile these different teacher perceptions of the LSA's role. So would the development of exemplars of best practice when it comes to teacher-LSA collaboration. I recall watching a while ago some official video of a science lesson which was intended to show best practice for lesson delivery. The teacher's lesson was indeed exemplary, except in one respect. She totally ignored the LSA sitting at the back between two SEN children. Clearly, the LSA's job was to be some kind of private interpreter for these two children, while the rest of the class simply "got on with it", asking and receiving help from the teacher. I don't blame the teacher for leaving this "class within a class" to its own devices, because she probably didn't know any better. The fact, however, that her performance was still presented as best practice by the video-makers is very troubling and suggests that the development of effective classroom strategies for LSA deployment isn't a priority at national level.

David Wilson
http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com

#6 Anne Jakins

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Posted 01 January 2005 - 12:45 PM

I think there should be much greater recognition of the role of the LSA in pupil learning particularly in view of the growing numbers of support staff in schools.
Presumably this will have to be an important development in the next few years as the work force reform enhances their role and gives greater responsibility and better career structure.

#7 Jean Walker

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Posted 01 January 2005 - 01:04 PM

Here in Tasmania we are about to begin putting together quals, training, position description, salary scale etc for a completely new position of Assistant Teacher. This is the result of a survey recently done into special needs delivery here.
The AT will probably be 2 year trained, have teaching conditions (ie duty of care/school holidays/permanency etc) and will sit between the TA and the teacher in terms of responsibilty, duties, and salary scale.
We have been told by our DoE that there is no other equal position anywhere else in the world, although I believe British Columbia has something similar.
I'd be very interested to learn about the advantages/problems of the working relationship between teacher and your LSA, and will look at the website you posted and then get back with some more thoughts.

#8 Anne Jakins

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Posted 01 January 2005 - 06:06 PM

Jean - creating the position of assistant teachers with two year's training seems like a good idea. Nationlly, LSAs receive some training but it seems to be very much at the discretion of the school. I think the most important responsibility of the school is to appoint the right people. LSAs have to be discrete, reliable, flexible and work well as part of a team and are not easily shocked when party to student conversation in the classroom!
My department has a student- centred approach to support as opposed to blanket cover of the curriculum. I think this produces the most effective learning for individual students.
The main difficulty I think is in achieving effective communication between LSA and subject teachers, particulary where the LSA may not be timetabled for all the lessons. In a large school, where support staff work only school hours this can be quite a problem.
Increasingly the position of LSA is becoming full time and with so many more being appointed there needs to be different levels of responsibility and a proper career structure. It would be good to attract more men into the job as well to provide role models for some of our more challenging students.

#9 Jean Walker

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Posted 02 January 2005 - 01:06 AM

I agree about the communication aspect, especially in high schools. This new position could become part of the career path for those who begin as TAs, progess to AT, either through a discrete college course or a partial competency/prior knowledge requirement, then on to what we call B.Teach - an in-service teaching degree. Some caution has been sounded about it becoming a cheap way to recruit teachers, also that we may end up with similar problems to the UK in regard to supervision/responsibilities etc., so we are treading carefully, and as a union we will be keeping a close eye on how it develops, but I hope that ultimately it will assist both students and teachers.




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