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A question for any parent helper who hears children read...

(41 Posts)
Knockmesideways Fri 04-Mar-16 11:38:38

How is space 'allocated' in your school for helpers who come to listen to kids read?

The reason I ask is that our school's 'system' seems manic to me but I don't know if it's the norm or there's a better way!

I started helping one afternoon a week just before Christmas. I have list of 10 regular readers and am in for 1.5 hours. Some of the kids still have to sound out (they are year 4 children) and some on my list are fast readers but don't get a lot of practice so the time I spend with each child varies.

The last couple of months though, I have had problems getting any space to hear the kids read (even a couple of chairs in the corridor quite literally).

The worst was a month ago. Normally I get the classroom to my self for the first 45 minutes as DS's class have music. Sometimes, though, the class is actually in the room and I need to find somewhere else to go as the teacher likes the readers to have peace and quiet - i.e. not reading to me at the back of the class.

This was one occasion when the class was using the room for the whole afternoon. There is a desk on the landing outside my DS's class but a woman from a charity uses that two afternoons a week to work with some children who need extra tuition and she's in that day. The teacher said another classroom should be free. This classroom is not used by a class - it's for assessments, reading, breakout groups etc so free for anyone to use. So off I trundle with my first reader. The room is being used by an assessor for some of the special needs children. Fair enough, we try the library. Nope, that's being used by some year 6 children doing their English class and having a break out discussion group. So I send the child back to the classroom whilst I go to the front office to see if I can find anywhere else I can park my backside. On the way I pass the two tables in the corridor which I have used for reading in the past. Both occupied.

Front office don't have a list of rooms (by which time I am wondering if I will actually hear any reading or will wander the halls of the school like a manic Miss Haversham...) but they think the ICT suite is free for the first part of the afternoon that day. So I slap my coat on a chair, race up to get my first reader and on we go. Fifteen minutes later (cos I've spent 20 minutes looking for a bloody space to read) I am chucked out of the ICT suite as a class is starting! So the trudge up the corridor to find space began again. Finally, after another wasted 10 minutes, I spotted the year 6 kids coming out of the library and bagged it!

It seems that various helpers over the years have suggested to the office that it would be helpful if there was a booking system for rooms rather than the first come first served system there is now. Most of them (including me of course) come on set days so space could be allocated (even if it is table 2 in the corridor!) well in advance. That way, when assessors etc come in the school knows what space it has available. But nothing has changed.

To me, coming from an office background where you checked with reception which room was available for a meeting, booked it and then got on with your work in it, it seems such a waste precious reading time to be charging up and down corridors looking for two blooming chairs so you can sit with a child and read. I spent a total of 25-30 minutes finding space - 25 minutes I could have had helping some of my less able readers get to grips with their books.

So, long windedly, what do other schools do? Is our school the norm or do other schools have some system in place?

A few of us want to put suggestions on the table on how things could work just a little better but it'd be nice to know if we're just wanting too much before we start! As I said, I don't mind if I have a couple of chairs in a quiet corridor but when all of those even seem to be occupied it smacks of the school accepting help willy nilly, when they actually don't have the space that day.

mouldycheesefan Fri 04-Mar-16 11:47:11

We are not allowed to be on our own with a child as we are not crb checked. So empty classrooms etc would not be appropriate for us.

CandOdad Fri 04-Mar-16 12:51:49

Depends on the school. Discuss it with the teacher you are helping, you will prob find it annoys them as much as you. I can't suggest much else since when I was a gaining experience last year, some time I even had to resort to sitting in a corridor to go through things with children. How do teachers a manage it if they need another area? Library ICT etc. There must be booking or allocations somewhere.

ispymincepie Fri 04-Mar-16 13:01:13

We have a much smaller school but it's the same here, no system, just luck. Sometimes I would get a desk in the corridor or the library for the duration and get to hear readers in peace. Other times I've had to move several times and ended up sharing a desk or using a noisy classroom as a last resort. Probably not worth the hassle of sorting out a booking system though as it needs to be flexible and our school is so small. Sounds like it might be worth it in yours though!

Knockmesideways Fri 04-Mar-16 15:23:22

Thanks all. I had a feeling it wasn't just us! There just seems to be a bit of a lack of help for parent helpers in our school. Like there's two tables in the corridor (as I said) but finding out if I could actually use them for reading or if they are there for 'something else' was like pulling teeth! The office 'wasn't sure' so I just tend to use them - someone will tell me if I'm doing wrong eventually. Just feels very 'uncontrolled' (if that's the right term) - sort of 'do what you think is right until someone tells you it's wrong'. It comes across like people are too frightened of getting it wrong to make a decision - if that makes sense.

I realised this week that no one had actually told me anything about fire drill - my own stupid fault for not asking but I was a bit 'rabbit in the headlights' my first couple of weeks (the thought of a class of 8 year olds - terrifying!). We had a fire alarm go off just as I walked out of the reception. If it'd happened five minutes earlier I would not have a clue where I should go. Fully accept that's my responsibility but you sort of expect someone would cover that with you.

I don't know, it just seems a bit like diving in head first and hoping you surface for air sometimes!

And CandODad. You've hit the nail on the head. There must be a booking system - but the office deny all knowledge. I don't know if it's this 'can't make a decision' or they just don't want to add another job to a busy day.

TeenAndTween Fri 04-Mar-16 16:27:15

OP - Our system is a bit like yours. smile
There are tables in corridors, for Infants and then in juniors the art area and library. But these are randomly used for extra support as and when needed (or for children being sent out as they are mucking about). I learnt to go with the flow, and could usually find somewhere not too far from the classroom.
I think the effort cost to teachers/TAs to set up and use a better system would be more than the effort saved by unpaid parents.

greenbloom Fri 04-Mar-16 16:40:01

It's probably the same in every school - although in ours we try to make sure that volunteers have a dedicated space as a priority. Ours doesn't have a booking system for rooms - but there is a pecking order of priority! Outside visitors/private meetings are high up. I've got used to moving around a lot, but it is only a fairly small school.

mrz Fri 04-Mar-16 18:06:54

We don't have any spare rooms 🤔

isittheholidaysyet Fri 04-Mar-16 19:01:15

Small school, not really enough space in general, but they are constantly trying to do something about this, moving furniture and squeezing extra tables in corridors. Parents usually hear readers in the cloakrooms, or corridor outside the classroom. I don't always get a chair in the cloakroom and sometimes have to sit on the benches (which hold all the coats and shoes). Sometimes have to go on a chair hunt, but adult chairs can always be nicked from the hall. There may be other parents or TA's working with children in the corridor with you, but we are usually far enough away to allow enough quiet.
The school is desperate for parent help, and so all the teachers and TA's are very respectful and helpful. (Are you OK there?...Do you need a chair?... I'm finished in the library if you want to go there...etc) but it can be a bit 'every man for himself' sometimes!

WhoKnowsWhereTheTimeG0es Fri 04-Mar-16 19:05:49

Spacious corridor areas with tables or the library for us, never had problems finding a spot somewhere though. No spare classrooms here either.

PerspicaciaTick Fri 04-Mar-16 19:09:55

If I wasn't in the classroom or corridor, then I would generally use a spare classroom/library/tech space. However, we would generally double or treble up in the space, so two or three adults working with different children, in a room there was generally enough space to sit in different corners and not impact on one another too much.

almostthirty Fri 04-Mar-16 19:10:12

Could you not have taken 2 chairs and put them outside the classroom door. You really don't need that much room to read.

PerspicaciaTick Fri 04-Mar-16 19:12:05

Also, in the summer term we would go outside and read.

uhoh1973 Fri 04-Mar-16 19:48:19

We have a sofa where I sit and listen to the children read. I don't have alot of time but enjoy listening to them read (and am CRB checked). But I would get the hump if I needed to spend half the time looking for somewhere to sit! I would ask at the office for them to sort something out for next week so you are not wasting your time.

Foxyloxy1plus1 Fri 04-Mar-16 21:56:54

I gave up hearing readers because I got so frustrated with being in a public thoroughfare, where the world and his wife walked through! This, in a new school, where you'd think they would have thought about that sort of thing.

Mind you, when I was teaching, I didn't have a classroom because I only taught a few lessons a week as my main role was SENCo. We often looked like the lost tribes, wandering through the school, looking for a spare room.

I once taught a lesson in the hall, with chairs, no tables, to a class of Year 7s, observed by an Ofsted inspector.

catkind Fri 04-Mar-16 23:23:36

Ours works OK, the infant classrooms open onto an open space/reception area which has chairs around in it and a couple of tables. It can get noisy at times if other children are working in the area, but we are always allowed to be there.

Can't believe they just send you hunting around the school, what a waste of resource. Is dragging a couple of chairs into the corridor at all possible? Or just bagging a corner of the library whether other kids are working there or not?

CockwombleJeff Fri 04-Mar-16 23:49:21

Just explain to the teacher there is no room elsewhere and hear them read in the classroom , problem solved.

As a parent volunteer I really wouldn't start to try "organising" space or times - I would say that's not your remit.

MadamDeathstare Sat 05-Mar-16 02:53:32

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Out2pasture Sat 05-Mar-16 03:04:30

open concept classroom smile, I listened to them read on a couch.

mrz Sat 05-Mar-16 06:01:17

Older school buildings weren't constructed to accommodate volunteers or even support staff withdrawing children from the classroom. It's often a juggling act to find a space to hold meetings never mind hear readers. Teachers learn to compromise and be flexible with a situation that might not seem ideal but is the one we have to work with.

WhoKnowsWhereTheTimeG0es Sat 05-Mar-16 06:26:45

I don't think a booking system would work, there are too many people (teachers, TAs, parents) using the shared spaces for short slots all the time, coming and going, it needs to be really flexible. The TAs and teachers would not have time to keep going to the office to book/check bookings. I also would not want to be the parent saying "sorry, I've booked this space now", to a staff member who was already using it. First come, first served and flexible is what it needs to be.

catkind Sat 05-Mar-16 07:23:23

Flexible would be if they said try X y or z nearby places, if they're in use you'll have to read in a corner of the classroom. Flexible isn't losing half an hour of volunteer time trekking around the school. Do teachers and TAs waste their precious time like this too? Half an hour charging round the school with kids in tow then "oh okay we can't do a breakout then, there's no space"?
I think if you are going to do flexible and first come first served then in the first place there need to be more than enough spaces. When we're tight for space at work, that's when we use sign-up lists for the usually ad hoc places.

mrz Sat 05-Mar-16 07:36:08

Was the OP asked to treck around school with kids in tow? To me it would be flexible to work in corridor as others have suggested.
Yesterday a volunteer who helps in my class (not a parent) turned up unexpectedly (been to an interview on morning and had free afternoon) should I have refused her help because there was nothing planned or make use of a valuable helper?

jamdonut Sat 05-Mar-16 07:47:20

I have the same problem, and I'm a TA!!!!!
It has been known to be cushions/beanbags on the floor in the corridor before now!
The dining room is usually free, but it is very echoey,and difficult to hear properly.
One of the teachers goes backstage to a tiny area with a couple of chairs.Its a bit dim, but it is quiet.
Our parent readers usually snaffle the best spots! wink

ragazzi Sat 05-Mar-16 08:02:26

Was going to say, bring in a beanbag! Half-joking... Back of the classroom sounds best really.

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