Here we look at ways of monitoring the work of TAs and maximising their effectiveness.
Monitoring the effectiveness of support staff is an essential part of ensuring quality provision, but it is an aspect of the management role that many SENCOs find difficult to fit in. On a basic level, simply talking to staff about how a TA works in their classroom is a good start. This can be done incidentally in the staff room and can provide useful feedback, but it’s surprising how seldom this sort of informal monitoring is used.
Remember to ask pupils as well. If a child is not ‘getting on’ with an assistant, for example, the situation needs to be addressed. If the pupil feels uncomfortable with the way in which support is offered i.e. very obviously, and feels that this alienates others in the class, this also needs to be discussed and alternative strategies suggested to the TA.
Observing TAs, both in the classroom and while working with individuals and small groups outside the classroom, will give you a valuable opportunity to evaluate relationships and monitor the strategies being used. Use a proforma to help focus on what you are looking for (otherwise it’s all too easy to get drawn into lesson, helping children yourself, and forgetting why you’re there!).
The headings below might form the basis of a useful checklist when observing in-class support.
Complete the proforma in good Ofsted fashion – i.e. describe what you observe in terms of evidence of good practice, for example:
Prior planning, preparation of resources: Mrs Tibbles has a copy of the teacher’s medium term plan and knew that Jack would have difficulty in recording the results of the investigation. She prepared a simple record sheet for him, and others in his group to use.
Professional development reviews (PDR) with TAs will provide opportunities to discuss your observations, suggest alternative approaches and materials and encourage them to reflect on, and develop their own practice. Pairing up an inexperienced TA with a more experienced and skilled TA can be one of the best kinds of training.
It’s important to remember however, that maximum effectiveness of TA support can only be achieved when teachers are also actively engaged in the partnership.
You may find that you need to do some training with class/subject teachers about the role of TAs and the range of activities they might engage in, before really moving on with these issues. The business of joint planning/advance notice of the lesson content is often the BIG ISSUE – especially in secondary schools. Lack of time is usually the excuse for not doing this (understandably), but where SENCOs have managed to address this, the quality of support is seen to be much higher and the outcomes significantly better than where TAs are left to pick up the threads of a lesson alongside the pupils they are supposed to be supporting.
If there really is not enough time for teacher and TA to speak about/plan next week’s lessons – try using a simple proforma for the teacher to complete and leave in the SENCO’s office each week (or on the intranet): Date/time, Subject lesson, Learning objectives, Pupil activities.
SENCO Action to monitor your TAs:
This e-bulletin issue was first published in February 2007
About the author: Linda Evans is the author of SENCO Week. She was a teacher/SENCO/adviser/inspector, before joining the publishing world. She now works as a freelance writer, editor and part-time college tutor.