Teaching assistants: out with the bathwater ?

There are an awful lot of TAs out there and according to the latest reports the government is looking to take the advice of a think tank and radically cut their numbers.

Having worked in and observed hundreds of classrooms over the years I’ve seen some brilliant practice amongst teaching assistants and some that fell short of adequate.  Sometimes the best practice was seemingly divorced from whatever was happening in the classroom. But TAs most often in my experience have the most impact in classrooms where the teacher knows how to manage the teaching assistant’s work so it complements their own practice and doesn’t occur as just an add on. It may seem strange but in many schools TAs are not managed by teachers, they have a line management all of their own. This means that many teachers simply don’t know what to do to maximise these extra bodies in the classroom. And yet in so many cases they are vital in supporting both children with statements and equally as importantly those who don’t actually have a statement but so desperately need that one on one that a busy classroom teacher with 35 or more students to occupy them simply does not have time to give.

At a time when class sizes look set to rise again and cuts are hanging like the sword of Damocles over every element of state education we are increasingly seeing perfectly good babies being thrown out with the bathwater: teaching assistants were brought in for a reason: to give hard pressed teachers a chance to focus on good teaching whilst needy students were offered the one to one help that they need.   Why not re-evaluate the use of TAs instead of doing away with them ? Why does our Ed policy have to swing from one extreme to another rather than taking a more considered approach ?

 

Lets be reasonable : re think the role and function of TAS and clamp down on cases where they are used as cheap and unqualified replacements for teachers. Otherwise we end up doing the educational quick step again…one step forward three steps back, another innovation, another proclamation, and the outcome ? Mounting frustration.

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The new speedy post

Trying out the new speedy posting technique. Beginning now.

 

Bringing history alive .

Where fiction ends and fact begins.

I was procrastinating about starting a new book today. Having only finished the last on last week (which took me an age to write and re write) , I was reluctant to begin another so soon. Why ? Well although I do love writing it does seem like a bit of a busman’s holiday when you write for a living all day too.

But I am going to start it – why , well because I missed it. Not only the characters but living with the book and living in the era when it was written.  I think having dwelt in the Victorian age for some ten years now , popping in and out like Dr Who, I have a love hate relationship with the era: I hate the hypocrisy and the ghastly abuses perpetuated on the poor and yet , I love the rituals and the obsessiveness of the Victorians ..on life , but particularly on death.    Summing it up one of the miners I interviewed for the book told me a saying that the Victorian miners had for when they spotted an ambulance at the pit head: ‘ head means dead’ – if the poor soul’s head was visible out of the back of the horse-drawn ambulance then that was a sure indicator that they were dead; however if their feet were sticking out then chances were they were still alive…..maybe only just , but yes alive.

 

The last book was located in the mines of the North- strapline – Life down the mine in 1839 , the next one is set in London. I’m looking forward to starting it now: the workhouse research I did took me 6 years and is still in many ways going on. I spent many a happy lunch hour (whilst in the noble employ of The Chartered Institute of Linguists) , in the Southwark records office, working my way though an amazing collection of audits of ragged schools and workhouses.  Rather depressingly many of the terms used to describe the poor are alive and well today , in fact some seem almost mild compared the punitive tones used by the popular press and some politicians to describe those who for one reason or another can’t work.

So there it is , back into Victorian England go I .  And with me my characters….but oh…the main reason I started again was to take my new character back there: always taken from life my last book sustained me  lowering my stress levels by enabling me to personify the most irritating traits of various real life characters in a single character…….of course they do have redeeming features: the point is, not many.

 

Anyway..onward we go…and thanks to Rob….. 450 words in ….er just under 15 mins. Not bad eh ????