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What are classroom assistants for?

(24 Posts)
GrumpyYoungFogey Sun 08-Nov-09 22:47:48

Genuine question, because I don't know.

They definitely didn't have them when I left primary school in the late 80's. And we were taught in mixed ability classes, around tables, not all facing the front in rows. And stuff got done in a reasonable disciplined manner at the rougher end of a middling provincial town.

So what are these para-teachers doing? I asked once at a parent's evening and got a sigh, and a "for a number of reasons" but my 10 minutes were up and the teacher didn't have time to expand.

My ideas for why they are there:

- Discipline standards have dropped so badly in the past 20 years that one adult can not possibly expect to supervise 30 or so children without a riot breaking out.

- Paedo-hysteria means one adult can not be alone with children at any time (I think this is the case with the benevolent grannies and teenage Christian Union types who run the kids' Sunday School)

- Immigration has led to so many kids being unable to follow lessons in English easily, that you need extra helpers and might as well have them everywhere.

- Sheer volume of form-filling and box-checking means actual teacher has no time to teach.

So, can someone enlighten an out-of-touch parent, who doesn't read OFSTED reports and just sent his kids to the nearest primary school, what these ladies and gents do?

sprouting Sun 08-Nov-09 23:04:03

Its not economical to pay a graduate to collect dinner money and wash paintbrushes. It also means that children get do do more things with an adult such as reading and supervised small group work that wouldn't happen if there was only one adult in the room. There is more going on in classrooms than there was in our day and there is more admin too. There are also more SN children who would have been taught in special schools or who would have been excluded in the past.

I left primary in the late 80s too and we were in rows in juniors, I remember spending a lot of time queuing up at the teachers desk waiting to get work looked at. We probably wasted about 10 mins every day on dinner money and notes too. Another adult would have been beneficial, although there was one person who seemed to be a TA/secretary who did reading with the SN children and sorted out accidents (both the elasaplast kind and the clean knicker kind)

Clary Mon 09-Nov-09 13:25:54

Staff in a school are CRB checked and are certainly OK to be alone with children.

TAs are amazingly helpful - the one in the FS2 class I help in works with the chidlren in small groups (maybe the more able or less able) on eg phonics while the bulk of the class works with the teacher; she also prepares work for the children; helps any children who are struggling (as sprouting says, SEN integration means more chidlren in mainstream who in your day OP may have gone to special school); etc etc.

Maybe they didn't exist when you were at school - not for me either- but then neither did computers and most think they are a good aid to learning.

Hulababy Mon 09-Nov-09 13:51:49

I am currently working as a level 3 TA in a year 1 class. I work PT, every morning.

I am fully qualified - I am actually a qualified secondary school teacher (IT and Business) and worked doing that for 10 years. I also have a level 4 advice and guidance qualification from when I worked for 3 years in prison ed. I also did a year's voluntary work in a primary school prior to applying for my jpb. I am CRB checked obviously.

I have various roles:


I cover the class teacher's PPA time. This is just over an hour each weeh. In my case I do the ICT lesson with the class in this time.

* I do first day cover for the class teacher.

* I cover the teacher's break in class. 2 days a week the teacher is on play duty, so gets a 15 mon break either before or after break time. I will cover int his time - normally doing snack circle and story time.

IEP pupils*

I currently work individually with 6 pupils from my class who have additional education needs. Each of these gets 3, 15 min one to one sessions a week. This sometimes takes plave in class and other times in a quiet room, depending on what I am doing with them.

* Group support - normally I work with the lower group, which included my IEP pupils and maybe one or two others. I will work with them, under the teacher's guidance.


Material prep - again, primarily for my IEP pupils. I tend to do this in my own time though. May also do prep for the teacher and the general class too.

* In a morning I help set up the room for the day; at lunch I tidy

I do do other things too.

I think that the role of a TA is very beneficial in a school class, and it means that teachers have support and get some time freed up to do other things in the class. IMO and IME the prescence of a TA benefits all the pupils in the class.

raggie Mon 09-Nov-09 20:38:53

Well said all posters.

Were you trying to be contentious OP?

Goblinchild Mon 09-Nov-09 21:07:42

You left Primary in the late 80s? I wonder if I taught you.
My TA teaches small groups, from SEN to extension. Creates and puts up displays, makes materials for differentiated learning in class, copes with all the bloody filing of paperwork, deals with individual support for specific children...I don't have time to list everything she does.
And you forgot that in the late 80s, many children came to school with skills, emotional literacy, independence and knowledge that have been misplaced or replaced along the way. So they have to learn them in school, and my TA is one of the key people helping them.

deste Mon 09-Nov-09 21:32:58

My DD is a classroom assistant and she has a 1st class Honours degree in a completely different subject.

cat64 Mon 09-Nov-09 21:44:19

Message withdrawn

MadameDefarge Mon 09-Nov-09 21:51:49

GYF. Another new man asking contentious questions,my MN is becoming popular with this Expanding demographic.

Children at primary are taught in plenary, generally using carpet based teaching which introduces topic, explains work to be done and show methods to achieve that lesson goal.

Children will then be discretely sorted according to ability and the TA will often work with the lower ability children to make sure they get support.

And as other posters say, they help prep classrooms, do projects, and often provide the pastoral care children need.

I suggest you stop being such a lazy parent and talk to your child's school about what they do. reading and ofsted report surely isn't beyond you.

In the meantime, take your little bag of rent-a-controversy suggestions and peddle it on another site.

Goblinchild Tue 10-Nov-09 07:51:00

My TA is fantastic with ICT, so she teaches my higher ability group and stretches them in a way that I would find difficult to do.
She knows the answer without having to go and look it up or ask an expert.
She also takes an extension maths group once a week, for the 5 that are operating a whole level above the rest of the class in certain aspects. And she makes amazingly good coffee. grin

jennifersofia Tue 10-Nov-09 13:46:46

Yea for TA's! (Hulababy, wanna come and be my TA?) I am not exactly lost without mine, but things are definitely much better! More children get supported, quality of learning is better. TA's also work with high ability groups, stretching them, while the teacher works with low ability (don't worry, we get to the middle ability too!), as well as run numerous intervention programmes in literacy, numeracy, gross motor skills, fine motor skills etc.

MadameDefarge Tue 10-Nov-09 17:08:57

Yes. As an LSA I was trained to deliver physiotherapy and OT programmes for my charge, as well as mediating work through Clicker. I also did 15 mins a day reading and numerous other interventions, including reading recovery and talking partners. And facilitated group interaction by taking groups.

I also did group work involving the Barnet programme and phse in circle time.

piscesmoon Tue 10-Nov-09 17:28:07

They are wonderful! I taught without them years ago and it is so much easier with help. My first question on supply is, 'have I got a TA?'

madamearcati Tue 10-Nov-09 18:27:26

I was at primary school in the 70s and they certainly had TAs then but they weren't called that

fernie3 Thu 12-Nov-09 17:19:02

we had "helpers" I left primary school in 1993

Hulababy Thu 12-Nov-09 17:27:04

I have spent all afternoon (at school and at home, all in unpaid time) preparing resources for my hildren with speech and language difficulties. Things I will use in my one to one and group sessions with them, and things the teacher will use too.

Things like "sentence maker" words cards, sequencing cards/activities, individual actvity cards they can carry round for guidance in a mroning, science materials, etc - all using Rhebus symbols to that it is all accessible for these children.

This weekend me and 7y DD made some snowman figures for the children to use - body, head, seperate eyes, nose, etc. And another with daddy and mummy;s clothes. All from The Snowman which is next wek's topics. Will use with my children to do sequencing work, and o retell bits of the story. All been laminated now and with velcro bits to "build" them.

All stuff that is needed to make the curriculum accessible and interesting for the IEP children, but that the teacher just simply wouldn't have the time to do on top of everything else.

I am not sure what would have happened in the days on no TAs. Maybe these children just had to cope (or rather not cope but not cope quietly), or were just left to do other stuff and not access the main work?

GrumpyYoungFogey Thu 12-Nov-09 22:35:32

Thank you for your answers. Can you try to avoid jargon and acronyms please? As someone only recently aware that Teaching Assistants are present right through primary school, I'm going to struggle to follow fashionable terminology.

From your answers I feel that my instincts are partly right - increased bureaucracy and falling discipline standards require help for the classroom teacher. And there are few jobs where one would not want another pair of hands around. But I'm sorry, but I don't buy the idea that primary school teachers are some sort of highly skilled "professional", who shouldn't perform their own simple admin tasks.

Interesting point about badly behaved children, and those with special needs being more likely to be in class than in the past. But is it the case that more kids are being diagnosed as such, when before they would have been simply naughty or dim?

From what I have seen of my children's own schooling, I certainly don't think standards have risen for average to bright kids. Perhaps those who struggle are performing better than before, although secondary school performance would suggest this is not maintained.

@ Madamfarage Rather presumptuous of you to call me a man. I did ask about TA's at a parents' evening, as I stated in my first post. I'm sorry, but unlike some I don't obsess over league tables and OFSTED and whatever else. I have a slightly cynical view of primary education as babysitting, indoctrination with a bit of elementary learning thrown in. This is not "lazy parenting", just a different view on life. I certainly take a keen interest in the curriculum, if only to monitor the propaganda content.

LadyGlencoraPalliser Thu 12-Nov-09 22:39:53

GYF - I think this is why MD called you a man.

So, can someone enlighten an out-of-touch parent, who doesn't read OFSTED reports and just sent his kids to the nearest primary school, what these ladies and gents do?

LadyGlencoraPalliser Thu 12-Nov-09 22:42:30

I should add, that the people who replied to your rather patronising and pompous OP did so with the greatest grace and good humour. It seems that they needn't have bothered however, as you obviously have an agenda of your own that you are not prepared to abandon.

GrumpyYoungFogey Thu 12-Nov-09 22:47:08

Rumbled blush


GrumpyYoungFogey Thu 12-Nov-09 22:48:39

(Memo to self)... Must keep DH from posting on my MN account...

GossipMonger Thu 12-Nov-09 22:53:49

knew you were a bloke straightaway!

GrumpyYoungFogey Thu 12-Nov-09 22:59:32

(Triple post alert - the true sign of a ment!)

What is my agenda meant to be? That for all the resources thrown at it primary education is still a bit meh? At least my attitude keeps spaces at the "good schools" free for those who care about that sort of thing.

I'd like to say, on the plus side my children are happy and enjoy school, and the pastoral care is fine, and the TA's all seem very nice.

I came here with my own theories on TAs, some of which were confirmed by posters here and some not. I've been enlightened to a certain degree. Is that not what these boards are for?

GrumpyYoungFogey Thu 12-Nov-09 23:01:13

knew you were a bloke straightaway!

Not even a parent as it happens. Just here to pick up chicks wink.

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