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Classroom support

David Wilson

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I served as an English Language Assistant in a secondary school in the Auvergne during the year following the "May Events". My job involved running small conversation groups or working alongside the regular teacher in an ordinary classroom. My period of service not only did my spoken French a lot of good but also afforded me an opportunity to gain early practical experience of teaching.

When I started teaching in 1971, many schools, including my own, had their own Foreign Language Assistants (FLAs). Few schools in my area now employ FLAs. The last ones left in the early 1990s.

In the Special Educational Needs section of this forum there has been an interesting discussion of the role of the Learning Support Assistant (LSA). I was wondering how MFL teachers deploy LSAs these days. Are they simply left to supervise and assist children with special educational needs; encouraged to leap to the assistance of any student requiring it; deployed on creating teaching resources? Do you have time to talk to them before, during and after lessons?

In some cases, LSAs may be more pedagogically adept than FLAs, but what about subject knowledge when MFL departments teach a range of languages? The LSA attached to my school's MFL department is planning to take her GCSE in the language she supports, which shows commitment and draws admiration from the students she serves. Is she alone or are there other LSAs out there doing the same thing? FLAs are experts in the language they support, but they are often very young and inexperienced with little or no pedagogical training. LSAs tend to be older, receive more classroom training, but lack subject-specific knowledge and skills. So, on balance, which kind of classroom support do you find more effective: FLA or LSA?

David Wilson


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