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Volunteer classroom assistants

(62 Posts)
SolidGoldBrass Tue 07-Jul-15 21:19:55

There was a meeting at DS' school today for potential parent volunteers. I went along because I thought it was mainly about being a parent helper on trips (eg having enough adults along to make sure all DC get off the tube at the right stop and don't leap onto the tracks, etc) but we got a moderate hard sell on the wonderfulness of being a classroom assistant, which might involve both photocopying and helping the DC who are struggling with their reading and writing.
I mentioned it on FB and a couple of people I know who are either teachers or other school staff made comments about it being not such a good thing that unpaid (and not really very highly trained) volunteers are now basically being asked to do what should be a paid TA job. Most of the friends saying oh it'w worthwhile and wonderful and all that are people who do not work in education.

AIBU to think that the ones who dislike the idea might have a point, and that it's generally a Bad Thing to expect work that would previously have been a paid and skilled job to be done by barely-trained, inexperienced free labour, however well-intentioned the individual volunteers?

TheTroubleWithAngels Tue 07-Jul-15 21:25:46

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

IamJeff Tue 07-Jul-15 21:29:31

It can be a very enriching experience and teachers need all the help they can get. They will manage the volunteers and direct and guide them, I'd say try it, I used to and i loved it.

toomuchicecream Tue 07-Jul-15 21:30:28

The more adults in my classroom, the more I can do with the children. Simples. Obviously I'd rather have highly skilled and trained people I work with on a regular basis so we all get used to how each other work and our respective strengths/weaknesses. But there are an awful lot of jobs that don't need much skill or training and can be done on a one-off visit - having a volunteer to do them means I don't have to do them after school. Taking down displays, setting up for and clearing away from Art, giving the mini whiteboards a proper clean, checking if the jigsaw puzzles and Maths/phonics games are complete, sorting out all the plastic bits of 3 different construction sets which have all got mixed up together. The list is endless.

toomuchicecream Tue 07-Jul-15 21:30:46

And that's before I ever get as far as working with the children....

BullshitS70 Tue 07-Jul-15 21:37:44

I go in once a week voluntarily and love it. It's not just you helping the class out, it's also a really good opportunity to check out the teachers skills eg what's their control of the class like or are they shouty. And I get to sit in the staffroom and drink tea whilst chatting to the teachers at break. It's good to be in the know. Honestly it's so nice to do

TheTroubleWithAngels Tue 07-Jul-15 21:41:03

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

angstridden2 Tue 07-Jul-15 21:41:25

BullshitS70 - I so hope you were being ironic. If not, I am really glad you were never in my classroom. Parents are supposed to want to help the children, not spy on teachers. It's bad enough being endlessly observed by SLT and Ofsted without adding parents to the mix!

mistymeanour Tue 07-Jul-15 21:45:49

Many parents use it to get experience to then apply for TA jobs or get a DBS check.

IamJeff Tue 07-Jul-15 21:47:17

Bullshit is being sarcastic. Teachers are generally very discerning.

meglet Tue 07-Jul-15 21:48:19

bullshit I really hope you're winding us up.

SocksRock Tue 07-Jul-15 21:48:40

I go in one morning a week to read with children in reception. I have the same 6 to read with every week and was invited to the training sessions run by an external supplier on how best to support learning and techniques to bring out the best. I also sharpen pencils, laminate worksheets, set up and clear away snack and help tie shoe laces and zip up coats.

Next term I'm staying with the reception class although my DS is moving up to Y1 and going in two afternoons a week. And actually, although I'm allowed in the staff room I dont, as it feels a bit odd to me. Teachers need their break without parents listening in.

CamelHump Tue 07-Jul-15 21:49:53

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MabelSideswipe Tue 07-Jul-15 21:52:04

I do this one afternoon a week. It's not like being a TA really. It's more an extra pair of hands to make sure kids are staying on task. Although sometimes I am left with the child with additional needs who really needs a one to one to keep him on task. That's worrying.

I did witness a teacher really humiliate a child a while back. It did cross my mind to tell the child's mum but I thought better of it. It was deeply uncomfortable.

riverboat1 Tue 07-Jul-15 21:52:11

I'm sure parents used to come in to help with reading when I was in primary school (25 years ago)

dixiechick1975 Tue 07-Jul-15 21:56:14

I think it is a good idea to cover the non specialist tasks like photocopying, pencil sharpening, washing cups etc. Listening to read as a parent would for children who don't have mum/dad at home doing that or need extra practise too. Frees up skilled staffto do the teaching/1-1 interventions.

mugglingalong Tue 07-Jul-15 21:57:12

I think that it can be very helpful - two of my dc went through stages of refusing to read at home and it helped that another adult was willing to listen to them. Parents never listen to reading in their own child's class though. I can see however that some parents would use it in the way BullshitS70 describes which isn't so useful.

blink1552 Tue 07-Jul-15 21:57:48

I help out at DC's school. I may be naive but I don't recognise what you say.

My mum was a teacher back in the day. 40 to 45 children in a class, no TA, no differentiation. Mums (and it was mums) would come in to help with reading. Fast forward to now, we have 30 to a class, plus a TA, and still a few parents coming in to help.

In Y1 at our school they have some whole class teaching then work in differentiated groups. Teacher takes one group, TA has another, but what about the rest? Either they work independently - which is a bit hit or miss when you are 5 or 6 - or you have a pretty unskilled parent volunteer doing their best to help. It's not perfect, but IMO it is better than the alternatives. Particularly for those in the top sets, who tend to get less input.

I don't mind photocopying either. It frees up the teacher's limited PPA time to spend on preparing lessons for my child. Or failing that, it frees up the TA's time for more contact time with the children, which again benefits my child. Either way, win win.

If you think otherwise then fine, just don't do it.

CamelHump Tue 07-Jul-15 21:59:11

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ppolly Tue 07-Jul-15 21:59:42

You do not need to be highly trained to be a TA. However, as a volunteer you can expect to be given the nicer and easier TA work.

Nanny0gg Tue 07-Jul-15 22:06:24

One problem can be volunteers with somewhat imperfect literacy and maths' skills 'helping' children and getting it wrong.

It does happen and means the teacher has to spend time correcting misconceptions.

And as long as there's a steady stream of volunteers then there is no need to spend money on professionals, is there?

CamelHump Tue 07-Jul-15 22:07:59

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Sapat Tue 07-Jul-15 22:12:27

I know a few mums at school who volunteer a little on a regular basis. They do it for a number of reason: helping out the school, feeling part of a community that as a working parent you might not know well, getting out of the house for a change of scenery as a stay at home mum, getting a feel for the school in the nicest possible way whilst contributing usefully.

I volunteered quite a bit when on mat leave with my last baby (with baby to tow, he was the most placid baby ever). It was nice to be able to be part of the school community a bit, I helped create the stage for the Xmas play. With 3 kids I will be at the same primary for 13 years! I work full time so can't do much but I try to do my bit when I can.

bobajob Tue 07-Jul-15 22:12:51

Parent volunteers are great for listening to reading, photocopying, cleaning paint pots, extra bodies on school trips, sticking stuff in books etc. They can free up TA time. They shouldn't be in the staff room.

TAs are busy supporting literacy/numeracy, working with SEN children, running interventions.

rollonthesummer Tue 07-Jul-15 22:16:07

My mum was a teacher back in the day. 40 to 45 children in a class, no TA, no differentiation. Mums (and it was mums) would come in to help with reading. Fast forward to now, we have 30 to a class, plus a TA

As a complete asidem but I'd still rather have taught 45 children with no TA back in the day, than now with 30 and a TA (sometimes). I bet the paperwork was pretty non-existant and 'marking dialogues', tracking, data analysis, learning objectives and success criterias were unheard of. My auntie taught from the mid 60s to last year and says it used to be such a lovely job!

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