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Teachers absent from class, supply teachers and teaching assistants

(25 Posts)
Jules2 Tue 18-Jun-13 11:17:36

I wonder if anyone can tell me what is the minimum number of hours a class teacher is required to be actually teaching their own class? It is very difficult to establish this from the NUT website - especially as it seems a teacher can negotiate their hours with the head teacher. But there must surely be a minimum for core teaching?
My DD's (Yr 3) teacher is frequently out of the classroom due to other 'responsibilities' she has taken on (and training for those) and which the school embraces as they see it as making her more of an asset to the school. Up to a point this may be true but I'm not sure if the Head/school is seeing her absences from the children's point of view and the lack of consistency in their learning. In a nutshell, some of us parents think that core teaching should be the priority and that this teacher is out of the classroom too often. The school says it doesn't impinge on her teaching but we'd argue that the standard of homework has been very poor - especially this term as she has been more frequently absent. Furthermore, they seem mostly to be 'consolidating' what they learnt in Yr 2 - surely they shouldn't spend 3 terms on this and should be moving forward?
The class is taught often by other teachers in the school, supply teachers (we've had several different ones) or teaching assistants. I do not know the regulations but it was my belief that TAs were not supposed to teach classes alone - yet this seems to be happening on occasion. One of the TAs is actually a HLTA (higher level TA) but still not a qualified teacher.
I'd be interested in knowing some facts and hearing from other parents and teachers alike as to what should/should not be happening in our school.

HarumScarum Tue 18-Jun-13 11:44:42

I'd be interested to know this too. We have had similar issues with supply teachers who really don't seem to have a handle on what can be a rather challenging class. I actually prefer the HLTA taking the class, tbh, as at least she seems to have a good grasp of how to make them all behave.

jellysmum77 Tue 18-Jun-13 16:38:49

All teachers get 10% of their timetable as non contact time -PPA time (ie not in class) which is about half a day. Then if they have responsibilities as you mention your child's teacher does then they will also be released from teaching time to carry out these duties - usually about half a day a week again but it really does depend on what the responsibility is and to some extent the individual school.
As for TA's teaching, a HLTA is allowed to teach alone and will also plan their lessons and should mark the work as well. Obviously the class teacher will want to have an overview of what is happening but the HLTA role is a teaching one. Also Level 3 teaching assistants are allowed to take classes but are not expected to plan/assess.
It can be difficult if your child happens to be in the class of a senior member of staff with a lot of responsibilities but there should be liaison between all the staff teaching the class to ensure as much consistency as possible.

mrz Tue 18-Jun-13 16:57:43

There isn't a minimum ...

Jules2 Tue 18-Jun-13 17:02:08

Thanks jellysmum77. I'd also like to know what a HLTA's training consists of - and how long do they train for? Is it meant to be a sort of stepping stone role towards becoming a fully-trained teacher?

mrz Tue 18-Jun-13 17:02:54

HLTAs can only teacher under the direction and supervision of a qualified teacher jellysmum

jellysmum77 Tue 18-Jun-13 17:45:14

That was what I meant when I said about the overview. In my school the HLTA would plan the lessons and mark the work but we would consult each week on what should be covered. They then taught the lessons when the teachers had PPA time.

jellysmum77 Tue 18-Jun-13 17:48:35

Jules- this link may help explain some of it;

mrz Tue 18-Jun-13 18:06:06

No jellysmum it isn't meant as a stepping stone towards becoming a teacher.

^ Higher level teaching assistants^

"Higher level teaching assistants (HLTAs) work alongside teachers, providing valuable support for teaching and learning activities. HLTAs work right across the curriculum, acting as specialist assistants for specific subjects or departments, or helping to plan lessons and develop support materials. They work closely with teachers, complementing their role and freeing them up to have more time to develop each pupil to his or her potential."

mrz Tue 18-Jun-13 18:07:41

jellysmum77 Tue 18-Jun-13 18:12:35

Mrz It wasn't me who said that lol! It was jules who asked me that. The info on the link I put is just about what you might need to train for this post etc.
I am not sure whether it was a crossed post but what I was saying what pretty much what it says in your quote there about working working with the teacher but that they did teach classes on their own as part of the role.

mrz Tue 18-Jun-13 18:17:55

TAs are only allowed to supervise a class OP not teach

In maintained schools in England children can only be taught by "school teachers"

School teachers include:

Head teachers

Qualified teachers

Overseas trained teachers

Instructors with special qualifications or experience

Staff on an employment-based teacher training scheme

Graduate teachers

Registered teachers

Student teachers

Teacher trainees yet to pass the skills tests

‘School teachers’ do not include teaching assistants, higher level teaching assistants or other support staff. However, support staff may carry out ‘specified work’, such as delivering lessons to pupils, within infant classes in certain circumstances1. In each case:

the headteacher must be satisfied of the support staff’s skills, expertise and experience to carry out such work;

the work carried out must be in order to assist or support the work of a ‘school teacher’; and

s/he must be subject to the direction and supervision of a ‘school teacher’.

Support staff must not be the main ‘teacher’

jellysmum77 Tue 18-Jun-13 18:57:34

I think this is what I am referring to and trying to explain badly;

7.What do you mean by 'supervision'?
Teachers use their professional judgement to determine the level of supervision required. Teachers may be present in the classroom, or they may be elsewhere in the school/college. It depends on the tasks the HLTA is undertaking and their level of training and experience.

This is only referring to HLTA though.
As Mrz says TA's are not allowed to teach, I have seen many cases of this happening though. But that doesn't mean it is legally allowed.

Going back to what you need to get on the course, I had had a friend/colleague who was a trained teacher but working as a TA as she couldn't get a job. She was put on the HLTA course and didn't have her GCSE maths and english certificates as they were at her parents house and the course leader would not accept her degree or teaching certificate as evidence of her qualifications!

AcrylicAfternoons Tue 18-Jun-13 19:02:38

Are cover supervisors allowed to teach?

mrz Tue 18-Jun-13 19:11:34


mrz Tue 18-Jun-13 19:14:47

Sommink Tue 18-Jun-13 20:06:34

How very timely. My dd's reception class was left without a teacher at all one afternoon. There was (according to my dd) the one-2-one TA and a work ex girl in control of the class. I emailed the school to ask if this was the case and got an email back saying there were more TA's in the room then that and they were within a 1:8 ratio playing in the garden.

I have left it for now but don't believe the school at all. Asked dd about playing in the garden and the response was "no mummy we couldn't go outside, it was raining all afternoon. We had no teacher so got to play whatever we wanted all afternoon". And she was right, on the day she said it happened it rained all day

MaybeBentley Tue 18-Jun-13 20:28:11

I'm really surprised to hear your child's school does go out in the rain Sommink, ours goes out in all weathers.

MaybeBentley Tue 18-Jun-13 20:29:53

doesn't go out in the rain blush
typing with one finger while I eat my dinner!

mrz Tue 18-Jun-13 20:30:25

A TA can supervise a class is an emergency if the head is certain they are capable what they can't do is supervise/teach on a regular basis or long term

Sommink Tue 18-Jun-13 20:42:55

They do have an open door and an undercover outdoor area, but its shared between both foundation stage classes and is only big enough for 10-15 children and TA's so they tend to take turns if its raining and a lot just don't bother going out in it but they don't have an official outdoor learning time like some other schools. DD was quite happy, she got the afternoon off and didn't have to do letters and sounds grin

deleted203 Tue 18-Jun-13 21:02:18

I think it is poor, to be honest, but am cynically resigned to the fact that too many HTs are basically concerned about budgets rather than what is best for children's education.

The primary my DCs attended was a small village one - HT 'taught' Y6. In effect the TA 'taught' Y6 as HT was always somewhere else. TA was surly and resentful and clearly hated being left teaching all day on a pittance of a salary. She was snappy and unpleasant to the pupils. I went in several times to complain, but nothing happened and we resigned ourselves to the fact that we would have to live with it. We didn't want to pull the children out and send them to a new school 6 months before they went up to secondary.

In my present school (secondary) we have unqualified TAs working as 'Cover Supervisors' as they are clearly much cheaper than getting in qualified supply teachers. (I understand they get something like £1.50 per hour extra if they 'teach' a cover lesson). They are covering up to GCSE classes - and basically say to the kids 'this is the work' and put it up on the board. They then sit there whilst the kids chat, mess about and do no work whatsoever. The pupils know they are not a 'proper' teacher and the TAs have no training in behaviour management, nor to be frank, the ability/power to implement it.

We also have 3 TAs working as 'Instructors'. None of these ladies have any qualification to do so. One has 2 A levels (in unrelated subjects). The other two only have up to GCSE qualifications. They are 'teaching' a timetable of around 18 lessons a week, mostly at KS3, but one has 3 GCSE classes of lower ability pupils. If these were my DCs I would be kicking up hell, frankly, but I suspect parents are unaware that 'Miss Smith' who teaches History has no qualifications to do so. Parents are not informed of teachers' qualifications or suitability for the role - they presumably assume that their child's teacher is qualified. This is not always the case. Academies can employ unqualified staff, certainly. There is some vague statement about 'anyone the HT considers suitably qualified' to allow this.

Read this link for info and weep!

Whilst many people will come on saying, 'I am an HLTA and I am a qualified teacher, etc' please be aware that I have never personally come across a qualified teacher working as a TA in 20 plus years of teaching. I am sure it does happen, for many reasons - either it fits in with their families, or they cannot find a teaching post. But I can honestly say that in our rural area the TAs tend to be very nice ladies in their 40s and 50s who certainly do not have formal qualifications of this level. I do not know any who have gone on to train as teachers from the route of HLTA/CS. This is (presumably) because they would need to take time out from work to do 2 years 'A' levels, 3 years Degree (with the associated financial costs) plus 1 years teacher training. It is a subject that makes me furious.

Look at any school and the new teachers they take on - I do not know of any locally who have employed anyone other than an NQT in the last few years. Because a 22 yo straight out of training is a hell of a lot cheaper than a teacher in their 40s who knows what they are doing. I have colleagues who have applied for jobs, gone to interview, and been gutted that, despite having 25 years experience and 'Outstanding' Ofsted observations they have been rejected in favour of someone just leaving a PGCE. You would not go for a job as a Consultant Surgeon and find yourself competing against someone who had just left Medical School and be told that 'they answered the interview questions really well'... They might well have done - but I know who I would prefer to be operating on me. Experience (which is expensive) counts for very little in schools now. If your school suddenly has a new 'teacher' of 45 I would be cynically wondering what grade on the pay scale they were, frankly. And whether they had QTS or were an 'Instructor'.

I think it is a massive betrayal of our children.

Hulababy Tue 18-Jun-13 21:08:24

Been through all this a lot at my school with TAs, MT, Unions and LA in last two years.

Level 3 TAs can deliver lessons. They should not teach as such (how you deliver a lesson and not teach I am not sure!) They can be in sole charge of a class. They can cover short term teacher absence - max of 3 days, such as for teacher illness. Most schools set this at first day only.

Level 4 TA are expected to plan, teach, and assess lessons.

Level 1 and 2 much less responsibility. Level 1 not supposed to be left to supervise a full class for example.

Hulababy Tue 18-Jun-13 21:11:19

Just to reiterate a level 4 HLTA CAN teach classes on a long term basis ie. as PPA cover, teacher absence, etc.

This was written in official documents and confirmed by the teaching unions (three main ones at very least), the TA union (Unison iirr), the LA and Government related documents.

HarumScarum Tue 18-Jun-13 21:11:23

I don't really see that having a TA or HLTA supervising a class or delivering a lesson is a problem, if, as mrz says, they are competent. The problem is with people (regardless of whether they are teachers or TAs) who are not competent or perhaps are not being supported to become competent. As an example, in DD's class the HLTA delivers quite a lot of content related to IT and art (these are specialisms of hers and she has professional non-teaching experience of them so no concerns that she isn't capable in those areas). She happens to be extremely good at managing behaviour and so, when she takes the class, they have a happy calm afternoon making an animation or creating art related to a picture they've been studying or something. This is great for them and I have no doubt that they get plenty of genuine educational value out of it.

On the other hand, some of the supply teachers who take the class are far less good at dealing with misbehaving children so the class has an unhappy day with ineffective punishments (that tend to be wildly removed from the actual behaviour policy that the school supposedly uses consistently) being handed out and children being deliberately naughty and the educational content, whatever it is, is rather diluted by people being unable to concentrate or being involved in arguments or whatever. I far prefer the days when the HLTA takes the class as she delivers back to me a happy child who has enjoyed her day rather than one who is keen to moan at me about every perceived injustice that has occurred. I realise that it must be very very hard to come into a class cold and deal with it all but surely they could at least stick to the school's own behaviour policy so that at least children know how it all operates? They are often teachers who take the class several times in a term. This is a Y1/2 class so they are most certainly not all capable of taking a change in how everything's handled on the fly. Some of them are not yet six years old. If you suddenly change all the rules, they have no idea how to deal with it.

I'm mulling over what I want to say to the HT when I raise it with her (which I certainly will) because I don't want to come across as being unsympathetic to the challenges that supply teachers face. I know it must be hard. But surely they could at least just take on board the rules of the school and apply them? It's just a fairly standard red spot, yellow spot, green spot, golden cloud system but DD gets people coming in and suddenly announcing that the whole class will miss five minutes break because X has done Y (for instance). And quite often it's the X who has SEN and finds it very hard to conform in certain ways and I do think that something needs to be put in place to support the supply teachers to be able to manage behaviour a bit better. I know it's a challenging group - I read with them and do sewing with them so I have been around the class lots. DD loves school. She absolutely loves it and wants to learn, but on supply days I get a clingy crying child who doesn't want to go to school at all. I don't really know how it all works. But I am certain that it could be managed better than this.

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