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Leicester, UK: A Diary of a Teacher’s Assistant

Updated: Nov 21, 2021

This blog post celebrates all teaching assistants everywhere and is the first in the series of highlighting the school experience from multiple vantage points. In the UK TA’s are often assigned the most challenging students, including students with varying degrees of disability and learning difficulties. Teachers can easily feel overwhelmed if TA’s are not present, yet they often feel under-appreciated. Asha wants to stay anonymous.

-Leicester, UK

I work in a large Leicester primary school as a HLTA (Higher Level Teaching Assistant). I have been at the school for about 11 years. I started as a volunteer while doing the Level 2 TA course; 6 months later I got a job at the school. I then studied the Level 3 TA course, followed by the HLTA Course. My duties are PPA cover (planning, preparation and assessment substitute), NQT cover (newly qualified teacher substitute), subject cover, Maths Interventions, Handwriting Interventions, First Aid, walking bus, and covering classes when teachers are on courses or off sick.

In June 2021, the HLTA's were told that teachers were going to receive a whole day every 2 weeks of PPA time instead of 2 hours a week. HLTA's would teach not only their own subjects, but also PSHE, Art, Computing and Phonics. It became challenging enough that one of the HLTA's, whose main subject was PE, wasn't getting to teach PE as much as he should have. He decided to leave, which was a huge loss. I myself have been looking into doing a DET course (Diploma in Education & Training) to teach adults maths.

I was teaching maths to the Year 6's, and some of the children asked me if I could teach all the maths lessons as they understood how I was explaining the lesson. They also told me that 2 of the children, who normally wouldn't answer any questions, were confident to put up their hands and answer and have a go.

In January 2021, during Lockdown, I supported 6 Year-2 children, 4 of whom lacked confidence. They wouldn't answer questions for fear of answering wrong. One of the things I would say to them was, “Have a go even if you get the answer wrong, because that's how we learn,” and within weeks they would answer questions. They would then look forward to coming into school, and they were happy to learn. Another child, who suffered from anxiety, wouldn't want to come into school and would cling to his mum. He would say that he couldn't do the work, that it was too much. I would explain what lessons we had that day and say to him that I was happy for him to do as much or as little of the work he wanted. I wanted him to feel safe. I also told him that he could be my helper, to hand out worksheets, etc. I could also see that this was upsetting his mum, so I called her to reassure her that he was fine. He is now in Year 3, and when he sees me around school he will always come over and say hello and tell me about his day.Teaching is not an easy job, but when you get comments and results like this from children, it’s all worthwhile.

- Asha

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