Following our last e-bulletin, this SENCO Week looks at how SENCOs can provide effective training and development for TAs providing SEN support, and how their work can be monitored and evaluated
This can be a good time to put together a training programme for TAs if you haven’t already done so. You, and they, have settled into the new term, begun to get to know individual pupils and their learning needs as well as topics being covered in lessons. By now, some training needs may be emerging and you can use a questionnaire to help TAs identify areas where they are less confident:
- Curriculum subject knowledge (specify area)
- Small-group/individual intervention work (planning for progression, knowing about a range of activities and resources)
- Managing behaviour issues (in small group/whole-class support)
- Understanding particular difficulties (eg, dyslexia, ASD, hearing impairment)
- Knowing about a range of strategies to support particular children
- Working alongside the class/subject teacher
- Ways of simplifying worksheets
- Checking children’s understanding
- Encouraging pupils to be independent
Training can of course, take many forms. If you manage a large group of TAs, a regular half-day session may be useful; in other settings, a 40min meeting during a lunchtime may be more appropriate. Asking a SENCO from another school to deliver a training session can work well (with the favour returned), as can working with an experienced HLTA to share good practice. Remember there are other options such as reading, watching a DVD, observing colleagues. Simply being able to share concerns with colleagues and ask for advice can be extremely helpful (but be wary of this sort of session turning into a ‘good moan’).
Managing support staff and monitoring their effectiveness 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 remember to ask pupils as well; if a child is not ‘getting on’ with an assistant, for example, the situation needs to be addressed.
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 pro-forma to help focus on what you are looking for (otherwise it’s all too easy to get drawn into the lesson, helping children yourself, and forgetting why you’re there!) The helpsheet provided might form the basis of a useful checklist when observing in-class support (expand the boxes as appropriate).
Professional development reviews with TAs will provide opportunities to discuss your observations, suggest alternative approaches and encourage them to reflect on, and develop their own practice. Pairing an inexperienced TA with a more experienced and skilled TA can be one of the best kinds of training.
TA/ Teacher partnership
The relationship between TA and teacher is all-important. For maximum effectiveness, there has to be mutual respect and consideration and good two-way communication. The business of joint planning/advance notice of the lesson content is often a serious issue – especially in secondary schools where TAs provide support across a number of different subject areas. Lack of time is usually the excuse for not doing this (understandably), but where this issue has been addressed, 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. Increasingly, schools are devising a format for conveying information to TAs about each lesson they will support, naming particular pupils to be targeted and indicating some specific responsibilities for the TA. Such pro forma might include the lesson objective and a tick list of specific tasks for the TA, which the teacher can quickly fill out. If you can provide a template for teachers to use, with cut-and-paste options, you can really save them time and help them to be better prepared for managing TA support.
There is now a set of Quality Standards for Special Educational Needs (SEN) Support and Outreach Services. Commissioned by the DCSF, the standards have been produced jointly by the South East and South West Regional Partnerships. They are intended to be used by all those offering SEN support and outreach services, including local authorities, school clusters, special schools, early-years settings and other providers.
They are designed to help achieve improved outcomes for children and young people with SEN and disabilities against the backdrop of Every Child Matters and the standards set out as part of the Government's Aiming High for Disabled Children programme.
While not mandatory, the standards offer some common markers against which service providers might assess and evaluate provision either delivered directly, or commissioned, to help improve consistency. They will:
- illustrate good practice in the provision of SEN support and outreach services
- help guide the development of local provision and support
- assist local authorities and others in determining appropriate resources and
- assist in the monitoring and evaluation process
A copy of the standards can be downloaded from the Teachernet website.
This e-bulletin issue was first published in September 2008
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.