The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Lizzie Gait

Maximising the value of your TAs

On the 16th September, I was excited to attend our Optimising the Impact and Value of TAs conference – the first of its kind in over 3 years. The range of leading expert and experienced practitioner speakers promised an exciting day of good practice. The aim of the day was threefold:

  1. Clarify the external accountabilities for ensuring that Teaching Assistants are appropriately and effectively used in the classroom
  2. Provide practical techniques for making the most of Teaching Assistants and ensuring that they are trained to genuinely support pupil progress
  3. Offer realistic ideas for measuring the impact that TAs have in the classroom and effectively holding them to account

Keynote 1 with Natalie Packer, independent educational consultant for SEN and school improvement outlined what the new SEND Code of Practice and Ofsted expect from TAs. She clarified the heightened emphasis in the new Code on teaching assistants – essentially, that teachers are accountable for the progress and development of all pupils, including those working with teaching assistants*. She also outlined what Ofsted will be looking for during inspection from your teaching assistants.

During Keynote 2, Dee Reid, catch-up literacy consultant offered practical advice on how to train your teaching body to make effective use of TAs. There have long been issues in this respect, with teachers expecting TAs to simply do the jobs they don’t want to. Dee offered practical advice to prevent this from happening i.e. have you ever thought to ask TAs to scribe main ideas in bullet points when teachers explain a new concept? Gareth D Morewood of Priestnall School spoke next. He talked about raising the profile of TAs across the whole school. I found it particularly useful to hear about some of the high-quality training that can be offered to TAs to ensure that they feel valued as members of the staff body.

In addition to the keynotes, we broke off into streamed sessions. I opted to find out more about how SENCOs can deliver SEND training for their teaching assistants from Natalie Packer. It was useful to hear practical ideas for structuring this training, and being sure that it is truly engaging and accessible for attendees e.g. aligning the activities closely with your own pupils to create empathy and relevance. In addition, I found out more about measuring the impact of teaching assistants – a really crucial task for ensuring that you can demonstrate their value to the school, and that they really are useful. Jan Martin of Sensitive Consultancy demonstrated how you can record and support the activities that TAs are performing in the classroom, and use this as evidence of impact. All in all, the Optimising the Impact and Value of TAs conference was a successful day. Everyone took away useful nuggets of practical advice to support the effective deployment of TAs and help schools make the most of this invaluable resource. *SEND Code of Practice, July 2014


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