What is a teaching assistant and how do I do it?

A teaching assistant is just that, an assistant to the teacher; and as such being skilled, experienced and qualified to fulfil this role is becoming increasingly necessary.

Whether you are working alongside a teacher in a mainstream school, providing essential 1:1 support for a pupil with special educational needs or a disability, or delivering a specific area of the curriculum or leading and managing an area of the school, it is essential that you know the expectations of the role and the opportunity you have to bring your own skills.

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What then is the role of a teaching assistant and how can you ensure that you are well prepared for being one in today’s schools and educational settings?

  • Working alongside the class teacher in a mainstream school

The staffing structure of most schools allows for there to be an additional, non-pupil assigned teaching assistant in the classroom at least for part of the day if not all. This role requires a range of very specific skills, the main one being the ability to be flexible and to have fantastic interpersonal skills as you are not only working with up to 30 pupils but also of having a fairly intense working relationship with another adult, the class teacher.

This type of teaching assistant needs to be able to second guess situations, adapt and be responsive to the daily life within the classroom. You will be asked to support with planning, deliver an introduction and explain again the concepts to your group and mark, assess and outline next steps for the pupils you are in charge of.

  • Providing essential 1:1 support for a pupil with special educational needs or a disability

This can be an incredibly rewarding position and one that can enable the pupil to truly achieve all they are capable of and to reach their targets. Working directly with a pupil often means that you are involved not only in the planning of the curriculum for them but also your input is needed at the planning and review meetings with the SENCO and often outside agencies and parents that support and now the child.

Patience, skills to negotiate and engage and a knowledge and understanding of the specific need or disability are all required for this role.

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  • Delivering a specific area of the curriculum and leading and managing an area of the school

Schools have many different facets and the development of how pupils research, record and present their work has meant that increasingly staff with technical skills are needed to support the leaners. More and more we are seeing schools with their own librarians, technicians for the computer suite, coaches skilled at refereeing and art specialists.

These roles are not always filled by teachers, more often than not it is a TA with the skills and experience to support in that area and the ability to equally relate to and understand how best children learn.

1. What are the expectations of the role?

The role is a key one in the school and there is an expectation that you work to support the children and colleagues and be an active part of the school community.

2. What skills do I need?

Just ensure that you are able to work collaboratively, sensitively and with a flexible approach.

3. How will I further develop?

There is usually the opportunity for specific professional development for all staff and TA’s are no exception. The school will have a development programme and all staff members will be set targets, be given the opportunity to attend training and courses and to be received on their progress.

For a lot of people being a TA is rewarding and enjoyable. It can provide the balance so often required for adults who would like to work in schools, but not as the teacher. This is definitely a role well worth looking into!

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About our Community Expert

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Jane Wood-Chambers
Editorial Advisory Board Lead

Over 27 years of educational experiences in a number of settings. Developed a clear vision and ethos for inclusion which puts the child at the centre and a clear understanding of how to support, engage and nurture the individual.

Ability to train all staff through effective and reflective continual professional development in behavioural management techniques that begin, establish and maintain change in all.

The science behind the health benefits of meditation

One of the main findings that I became fascinated with was neuroplasticity: the ability of the brain to change and create new neural connections throughout your life, and the most powerful way to do this, you guessed it: meditation. I appreciate that as a yoga and meditation teacher it is so easy for me to say this, but even if this resonates with one person, it would make me so happy.

It is incredibly easy for me to talk about the benefits from my subjective point of view yet when there is scientific proof about the effects that it has on us, people start to listen. I’m not saying that it’s like proving gravity or that the earth is round (how is this still in dispute) but in proving that meditation can change the way your brain functions daily is something not to be taken lightly.

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A study that grabbed my attention the most was by Harvard neuroscientist Dr. Sara Lazar. Her 2005 findings were groundbreaking and showed a brain similarity with someone who I think you might know. Dr. Lazar discovered that experienced meditators had much more neural density, folds, electrical activity and thickness in their prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for cognitive behaviour and essentially our personality).

Fear, anxiety, and stress are often a catalyst for so many people to start meditating. For me, my own experiences with anxiety are what led me to yoga in the first place.

In addition to this study, there are numerous findings that show that meditation “thickens” and grows the prefrontal cortex. This type of brain function is what made Albert Einstein’s brain so unique: needless to say the ability to create this through neuroplasticity and meditation is phenomenal.

When I read about this brain functioning, I went on to search for the part of the brain that is responsible for our emotions, survival instinct and memory: the amygdala. The simplest way to understand this is the fight or flight process with fear and how we both perceive and deal with any situation controlled by the amygdala.

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In 2016, a team of Spanish and German (Yang et. al) fMRI imaged the brains of meditation beginners before and after 40 days of mindfulness training to see the differences. Naturally, after the six weeks, their anxiety and depression scores had decreased. The part of the study that is truly phenomenal is that the participants had dramatically decreased their amygdala in size and volume- in only six weeks!

The implications of this study show that we can learn to control our primitive brain and teach ourselves to build up a protective layer against the negative effects of stress and anxiety before they take control of us. Interestingly, this study also found out that we can strengthen the Temporoparietal Junction (TPJ) associated with our emotional intelligence (EQ) through meditation.

Our intelligence is not set the day we are born, we have the power to take control.

We know ourselves that meditation gives you the tools you need to deal with your emotions but this finding proves that no matter how deep you may be suffering from depression, we can use tools to begin feeling better.

When delving further into neuroplasticity there is one more part of the brain that I wanted to mention and that is the Hippocampi. This part of the brain is responsible for learning and memory and again I wanted to see if, through neuroplasticity, the way we meditate would physically effect this. In another study by Dr. Lazar her research shows that meditation dramatically increased Hippocampal cortical thickness, with a magnitude determined by experience.

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In essence, this means that meditation has the power to shape the learning and memory centre of the brain into something phenomenal. If you want to create a strong memory capability and become a super learner… start with meditation.

I believe that meditation is the greatest gift that we can give to ourselves that can be done anywhere, anytime and it costs us nothing but time.

If you are tempted to give meditation a go, begin by trying out the box breath method:

  • Inhale for 4, pause for 4, exhale for 4, pause for 4.
  • Imagine the breath moving across the body in this way and visualise it creating a box shape reaching the four corners.

When you use your mind to visualize these techniques it becomes even more powerful.

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About our Community Expert

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Kirsty Raynor

#TeachFit programme lead

Kirsty is a yoga teacher on a journey of empowerment, building confidence and pushing the boundaries of what traditional yoga is and can be.

She leads the TeachFit Yoga workshops in our partner schools.

 

 

4 Steps of Strategic Planning for School Leaders

Dejected, forlorn and without hope, he says nothing, he does nothing, just watches the nightmare unfold, as the nations’ team tumbles into humiliation at the hands of novices.

He is dismissed from his post with the media shouting loudly that he simply did not have a plan, no strategy in place to deal with the situation on the field. He just sent the team out doing what they always did and hoped it would be enough. It wasn’t.

“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do”

– Professor Michael Porter

Roy was and still is a good leader. He has enjoyed success in many situations where others would have struggled, but he did not have a strategy to take the national side past the level they had reached previously. Those in his leadership team around him were not able to bring any positive influence to bear so that the outcome could be different. Without an effective strategy, a shipwreck occurred and all was lost.

Effective school leaders are masters of strategy, it’s not that they have left the operational aspects of school behind, but they have developed insight and skill in understanding the frameworks and nuances of strategic planning and execution.

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Davies and Ellison (1999) suggest that schools should engage in three types (or levels) of planning activity and integrate them into a cyclical process through which they can manage their strategic development over time. This model has been updated by Davies (2006) as follows,

Short term

This refers to one or two-year planning and the creation of operational school development plans. These short-term plans need to be focused on practical and achievable areas of school improvement and need to be driven by specific operational development teams.

Medium term

This refers to the strategic analysis used to create a strategic intent for the less predictable areas of medium-term planning. It also refers to traditional planning processes to produce strategic plans for definable and predictable areas of development. Medium term plans are best put together, monitored and reviewed by a standing group that meets regularly to manage the various strands of the school’s strategic plan.

Long term

This refers to future thinking to identify longer-term fundamental shifts in the educational environment and provide a future perspective. In larger schools, this process may be promoted by ‘research and development groups’, set up as task-and-finish groups.

A strategically-focused school is one that is educationally effective in the short- term but has a clear framework and processes to translate core moral purpose and vision into an excellent educational provision that is challenging and sustainable in the medium to long term, Bennet (2000).

School leaders do not need to devise new frameworks for strategic planning, this area is well researched and readily available, we need to be courageous and forward thinking to employ strategic models, even though we may be in the midst of firefighting within the school community.

Strategic school leaders rise above the managerial daily school life and view the school and its future from a different perspective. Using a framework, school leaders can plan and implement a strategy to secure improvement, build capacity and enter into new territory. The following is adapted from a framework by Davies (2008).

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Stage one: Generate intents

Generate a list of three to five strategic intents. These are intended to be significant changes and challenges that fundamentally move the school forwards.

For instance:

• Moving the entire curriculum of the school in a new direction across all key stages.

• Joining a new academy trust or federation.

• Cementing literacy, numeracy or business enterprise at the heart of the school ethos. Leaders, you must state your purpose, sum this up in keywords to guide day to day operations and as the foundation for future decision making.

• What is our core business in relation to this intent?

• What are we trying to accomplish for our students?

• What is our reason for existing?

Visualise the future… be courageous and think big! To write a statement of intent for each area answer this question, ‘What will this area of school look like in 5 – 10 years from now?’

Whatever you visualise should inspire you and others.

Stage two: Capability/capacity-building

For each intent (separately), list the early capabilities/capacities to be built in order to move towards achieving the intent. Each intent will then be taken separately to be developed (perhaps by different groups of staff or staff and other stakeholders).

Leaders, here you lead the analysis that helps the organisation look critically at itself. Tools to help you? the good old SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats).

Or my favourite, MIC:

• What should we keep doing? Maintain

• What should we tweak? Improve

• What should we overhaul or start again? Change

Leaders, there had been no doing as yet! You are leading the leadership thinking across the community, facilitating focused dialogue with staff and stakeholders.

Neglect this collaborative thinking stage at your peril. Profiling will play a role here too. Find out about your staff afresh, find out about your students afresh, what are their needs? wants? training requirements? levels of morale and issues therein? Do this for each of your strategic intents.

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Stage three: Strategic processes to build intent

Take each capability/capacity to be built at stage two separately and set out the strategic processes which will be required to build it. In each case, this will involve the strategic processes of conceptualising; engaging; articulating.

Now, the leadership team get writing, still not doing as yet. Don’t be hasty, the pre-work is the equivalent of digging a deep foundation for future success.

Conceptualising: what could this look like for the school and for the staff involved? What can you as leaders see that others cannot?

Engaging: facilitation of the conversations, motivating others and encouraging participation in the wider dialogue.

Articulation: orally with staff, in writing to staff, laying down the structures of the strategy.

Leaders, set objectives that give action to the statements of intent and contain the goals to be achieved.

Effective goals set out clearly in relation to performance:

• How much
• What kind
• By when
• By whom

Assess your resources, assess your need for and then secure support.

Make sure your goals and objectives build upon your strengths, shore up your weaknesses, capitalize on your opportunities and recognise your threats.

Stage four: Implementation

What is the next step? Take decisions about implementation (or not), Is the school ready to?

• Move to phased implementation?
• Move to full implementation?
• Abandon the ideas as non-feasible or no longer appropriate?

Or does the school:

• Require further development and capacity/capability building in this area?

Now and only now should you start doing!

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About our Community Expert

DianaOsagi_BlueCircle-1Diana Osagie
Community Expert | CEO Courageous Leadership Consultancy

After 16 years in senior leadership including six as a secondary headteacher, Diana is now one of the UK’s most recognised education leadership coaches.

She specialises in helping leaders and their teams develop their inner layer of courage; essential for true leadership and resilience.

Six principles of safeguarding in schools

The six principles of safeguarding originate from The Care Act 2014, which was instigated in order to set out the responsibilities of carers when caring for others.

The Care Act 2014 is aimed primarily at caring for adults at risk, however, the key areas covered within the six principles highlight fundamental safeguarding duties and responsibilities that apply to everyone; and reminds us all how and why safeguarding is EVERYONE’s responsibility.

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The Paramountcy Principle within The Children Act 1989 reminds all that ‘the welfare and protection of the child must always come first.’

Keeping Children Safe in Education 2018 makes it explicitly clear that safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility. Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children includes preventing them from experiencing harm, enabling them to be healthy, and meet their developmental milestones.

“Every child has the right to grow up in a safe environment.”


The 6 Principles of Safeguarding as defined by The Care Act 2014 are:

• Accountability

• Empowerment

• Partnership

• Prevention

• Proportionality

• Protection

These principles outline every person’s rights to live free from harm or abuse and are the basis of all good safeguarding practice.

Accountability

Being clear about your responsibilities to safeguard those deemed as being ‘at risk’, and transparent in your actions so that the person who has made the disclosure understands fully the actions you will now have to take ensures that ‘Accountability’ has been met.

Empowerment

It is important that the person deemed as being ‘at risk’ is in control of the situation that is about to take place. Your role as the person dealing with the disclosure is to involve the person in the process of reporting the concern; this allows for ‘Empowerment’.

You need to be familiar with your schools safeguarding reporting and recording procedures; only then will you be able to confidently explain the next steps. When safeguarding children it is important to be aware that informed consent is not required in order for you to share a safeguarding concern.

However, it is good practice to always ask for consent to share. Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018 makes it clear that:- ‘Everyone who comes into contact with children and their families has a role to play in identifying concerns, sharing information and taking prompt action.’

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Partnership

Multi-agency working plays an important role in ensuring that the appropriate services and agencies are aware of, and where necessary working with, children and their families who are at risk of harm; therefore allowing for effective ‘Partnership’ working to take place.

It is important to note that when sensitive information is being shared it needs to be done appropriately to ensure that confidentiality is in place at all times. Following the correct reporting procedures, both internally and externally is vital.

Prevention

Safeguarding is reacting, preventing and helping children, young people and adults to recognise and deal with risk. The ability to do this well requires you to be able to know the signs and indicators of abuse or harm so that you can report any concerns before they escalate. You also need to be able to help the individual recognise that they are at risk of harm, and therefore aid in the ‘Prevention’ of it.

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Proportionality

Once a risk has been identified the way in which it is dealt with needs to be proportionate and appropriate. The ‘Proportionality’ used will depend on the level of risk. If there is an immediate risk of harm to the individual or others then a proportionate response would be to contact the Emergency Services.

If the concern does not require immediate action then the proportionate response would be to follow your schools reporting and recording procedures.

Protection

Safeguarding is designed to protect everyone from harm where they might be placed at risk, and ‘Protection’ is vital for those in greatest need of support. Supporting and representing these individuals in the most appropriate way can help to protect them from further harm.

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About our Community Expert

 

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Karen Foster

Community Expert
As an experienced practitioner Child Protection, Safeguarding and Behaviour are key areas for much of Karen’s expertise and experience. She has been working with children, young people and adults for over 15 years in a multitude of settings which include dance and performing arts companies, local authorities, youth clubs, education and the welfare to work sector.

Karen’s main expertise is in safeguarding and behaviour management and modification strategies, with her most recent role being a national Safeguarding Lead. Karen has also been a school governor for nine years, two of which have been as Vice-Chair.

Karen has also run a behaviour unit (inclusive PRU) within an Academy and worked with the most disaffected students whose behaviour was disruptive who weren’t accessing the curriculum within the mainstream setting. She has and also worked with disaffected young people within a youth club, most of whom were at risk of permanent exclusion and carried out safeguarding audits whilst working for a multi-academy trust.

Webinar | The Hallmarks of Effective Professional Development

The Hallmarks of Professional Development with Ross Morrison McGill | Tuesday 30 April 2019 | Webinar

Event description

Research has reported that opportunities for teachers in England to engage with professional development is one of the worst in OECD countries – a meagre 5 days per year when compared to teachers in Shanghai who have 40 days allocated per academic year and currently:

● Are insufficiently evidence-based.
● Do not focus sufficiently on specific pupil needs.
● Are too inconsistent in quality.
● Lag behind those experienced by colleagues elsewhere internationally.

Join Founder of Teacher Toolkit and Opogo Community Expert Ross Morrison McGill as he reminds you of the hallmarks for building effective professional development culture within your school. The latest research will be disseminated, as well as a reminder of things to avoid.

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What will be covered?

A range of resources will be offered, as well as leading organisations that provide a plethora of ideas at your fingertips, including:

• Duration and rhythm of effective CPD support.

• Shifting towards a longer-term focus and aligning professional development processes, content and activities.

• How to step away from a ‘one-size fits all’ approach to individual needs are carefully considered.

• How to ensure the content of effective professional development considers both subject knowledge and subject-specific pedagogical discussions.

• How best to source external input from providers/specialists who can help support and challenge orthodoxies within a school & provide diverse perspectives.

• How to empower teachers through collaboration and peer learning with powerful leadership to help define staff opportunities and embed cultural change.

Who will benefit?

Teachers involved in the curation of (and who are responsible for) effective professional development of others.LINE_divide

 

When will the event take place?

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Date: Tuesday 30 April 2019
Time:
 4:30pm – 5:30pm
Location: Online

Click here to book your free place now.

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Speaker Profile: Ross Morrison McGill

Ross Morrison McGill, also known as @TeacherToolkit, is the ‘most followed educator on social media in the UK’. Ross has been a teacher for 25 years and is the founder of one of the most popular education websites in the world.

He is an award-winning blogger, author and today, has worked with over 100 schools in 8 countries. The Sunday Times listed Ross as one of the ‘500 Most Influential People in Britain’ and today, he remains the only classroom teacher to have featured.”

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