Opening Up

Today, I took one of the children out of class for their daily Maths/English intervention. These take about 15 minutes and the term used for them is Precision Teaching.

627447040However, he decided with children milling around us to tell me something of his life.

The child has been in interventions with me for couple of years. I knew a little of his background but today was the day that I got too know a whole lot more.

Obviously I cannot go into any detail suffice to say it was one of the most moving moments I have experienced in a school or possibly in my life.

I asked some open ended but gentle questions about how the child felt and what did it mean to them and when finished I was told that ‘I was the first Teacher he had spoken too about all this’. I have to say that I had a tear or two in my eyes at the end of it.

It is important that you have no secrets at school, it is part of Safeguarding and with that in mind I spoke to my teacher who suggested that I spoke to the head. I explained everything that was said and because of the nature of it she followed our protocol of writing all the details, signing and dating.

This will also go to the SENCO and will be kept on file.

Days like today make my job worthwhile.


Playground and break duty

The playground.

We’ve all been there.

BDP7AN_restricted_school-xlarge_trans_NvBQzQNjv4Bqeo_i_u9APj8RuoebjoAHt0k9u7HhRJvuo-ZLenGRumAIt is a busy, noisy and dynamic place, it can seem chaotic but in general any school worth it’s salt will have playground staff which is usually (but not always) are the trusty Teaching Assistants.

There are specific rules for the playground. For each KS1 (Key Stage 1) class of 30 children there must be 1 adult.

Interestingly for KS2 (Key Stage 2) there are no set number of adults required!

Our job is to ensure the safety of the children and differing schools have different rules. The school will have a safeguarding policy and it should be on their website, you need to understand the safeguarding rules.

I cannot emphasize how important this is.

Back to the playground though and what to look out for:

Bumps, Scrapes, Grazes and Bruises:
All we can really do is clean with a wet wipe (we are not allowed to use any form of antiseptic) and possibly a plaster but you need to check and make sure the child does not have an allergy to the materials found in the common plaster.

Many will not need anything, so calming the child down, making them feel cared for and distraction can also help.

Head injuries:
There can be very serious and ANY head injury should be treated as such. I look for a mark or a bump, check to see if the child feels sick or dizzy and (at my school and at many) send the child with an older child into the school office when the school staff will make a further assessment of any injuries. The parents will always be informed of any head injury.

We cannot remove them anymore.

Nose bleeds:
Take the child to the office.

Broken Bones:
I have never seen a broken bone in any playground but we never know so any injury must be taken seriously because it does happen.

Calling an Ambulance:
That will most likely be down to  the office staff but as a First Aider (your school should have you trained – I am Level 3 Paediatric First Aider) you should give your opinion.

Rough Play
This has to be stopped as it can escalate and injuries are inevitable.

Any form of bullying in unacceptable and should be reported immediately and should be logged on the behaviour log.

Children sitting by themselves
Children tend to sit by themselves for a number of reasons. They may have no one to play, they may be upset, home life may be hard or they could be SEN (Special educational Needs). Get down to their eye level, ask them open ended questions with care and concern and report anything unusual or suspicious.

Hitting or kicking
Physical violence is not acceptable under any circumstances and should be stopped and reported immediately.

Bickering and Disagreements
You will come across many of these and will need to make a decision on what you are told. Most are just silliness and a few words will usually help.


The Schonell Spelling and Burt Reading Test

Download the Schonell Test here

You will more than likely come across many tests as a Teaching Assistant.

This one is used to measure the age of the child for reading and spelling. The tests are to see how much progress a student has already made and that it may be repeated, say, in about six months to see how much further progress has been achieved.

schonell spelling test

It is easy to do and as with all tests it is important to ensure that the child is at ease, and that the test conditions are as favourable as possible, paying attention to light, comfort and freedom from distractions.

The child does not need to know the score as they will not understand it. So I usually give them a smile with a ‘well done’ and if they ask the score simply tell them you have ‘yet to work it out’ or something similar.

Interpreting scores

The results of standardised tests can be expressed in several ways.

The raw score is the number of correct items.

The standard score relates the raw score to the student’s chronological age. The average or mean standard score is 100. Standard scores within the range 85 to 115 inclusive are usually considered to be within the average range. Most students obtain a standard score within this range.

Percentile scores range from 0 to 100, with the average score being 50. Scores from 16 to 84 inclusive are considered to be within the average range. Most students obtain a standard score within this range.

Stanine scores range from 1 to 9 with 5 being the average score. Standard scores and percentiles can easily be converted to stanine scores using tables published with reading and spelling tests.

Your SENCo will show you how to do the test but it is quite straight forward.

  • You will ask your child to read the words from left to right
  • Proceed until they are unable to read ten in a row
  • You can then stop and work out their reading levels


With the Burt spelling test is similar

  • You will ask your child write the words
  • Proceed until they are unable to write five or ten (check with your SENCo in a row
  • You can then stop and work out their reading levels

Precision Teaching and Low Working Memory

Precision Teaching is a method of planning a teaching programme to meet the needs of an individual child or young person who is experiencing difficulty with acquiring or maintaining some skills, the child will have special needs.

child-teacher-1236x824In this instance we are thinking about children with memory issues and low working memory.

Precision Teaching has an inbuilt monitoring function and is basically a means of evaluating the effectiveness of what is being taught.

It can be used in early years, primary and secondary settings and can be applied to areas of the curriculum that can be broken down into clear objectives, eg: numeracy and literacy skills.

One area which I have experience with is children with Low Working Memory.

So what does Precision Teaching look like, here’s some examples:

Times Table are the backbone of mathematics but very hard for a child with Low Working Memory. In this instance the teaching is put in place and repetition is the key. So

I will use the 3 times table to demonstrate:

  • Spend 5 to 10 minutes teaching the child.
  • The child is shown a number of squares with a times table on it. 3×4 or 7×4 and using time and patience you help the child work at the answer.
  • When you have been through all the squares which may take some time you will use a timer and a sheet with the different times table in a random order.
  • The child then one minute and you run through the probe sheet seeing how many they can answer.
  • This needs to be done every day, repetition is the key.

Results differ depending on the learning issues with the child. In my experience some of teaching is absorbed, some for a few minutes, some for weeks and some for longer.

Precision teaching was developed in the 1970s to target teaching/learning key skills, it focuses on measuring fluency. Vygotsky suggested that effective teaching should be geared towards a learner’s ‘zone of proximal development’ (ZPD). Precision teaching encourages us to be very specific about the material used with the child, ensuring that it is within the ZPD.

Precision teaching also draws on Haring and Easton’s learning hierarchy which shows us how new learning needs to be fluent before it can be maintained effectively.



Back to school and those Inset days!

Just…be prepared!

I always, always hated it when, as a child, I saw the sign start to appear in shops. Of course nowadays as soon as summer starts they are out just to make money, just like Christmas already being advertised or Easter Cards…all marketing to make more money.

So back to school and what does that mean for a Teaching Assistant?

Part of the Answer is dependent upon which school you work at so I can only give you an idea of what it means for me.

To start with when I head back I have two INSET days (not insect days as my daughter thought!). Inset day was originally an acronym for IN-SErvice Training day and was also known as a TD Day (Teacher Development Day).

Continuing Professional Development is an important part of training in schools especially since the government changes policies, curriculum and whatever on a whim. It is something all schools must keep on top of.

Teaching Assistants share some of the training with the teachers but of course we have our own area in which we specialise and the chances are your SENCo will be doing some work with you or the team of TA’s.

There may well be boards to get ready, equipment to be checked and interventions to be worked out with teaching staff.

You may well be asked to do a variety of interventions usually to do with an aspect of English, Maths or sometime behavioural therapy. My advice is to find out this information:

  • exactly what is required of you
  • what is the target of the intervention
  • what time/s of the day/s it need to be carried out
  • where it is to be carried out
  • sheets to note progress
  • which children and from which years
  • have the parents given permission
  • when do they start

I would also recommend that you keep your own record recording the child’s progress, absences or other reasons you were unable to do the intervention.

Get yourself a academic diary (your school may supply one) they are quite cheap and take all the important dates from the school website off so you are prepared.




what_is_creative_teaching-e1433788418645.jpegTeachers, I have worked with a fair few over the years and have seen many more in action.

I currently work closely with 8 teachers, most Teaching Assistants won’t but that is part of my afternoon role as an IT Technician.

Teacher are of course are human, that is to say they come in all shapes and sizes. Some are good and some are not, some have a great deal of experience and some are newly qualified and most, in my experience are lovely and I am sure they would say the same about Teaching Assistants.

As a potential teaching assistant there are things you need to be aware of:

  • The Teacher is one of your managers and will supervise your work.
  • The Teacher needs to know what you say you are going to do you will do.
  • The Teacher makes the class decisions, you can makes suggestions but the decision is not yours, so if you have a great idea and it isn’t needed…let it go.
  • The Teacher may well have a bad day or two and hopefully will tell you when they are. My suggestion is to try and support them as best you can.
  • The Teacher will work an average of 50-60 days, will be tired, fed up, irritable and the work will pile up. The current government knows this but do little to help. Again my suggestion is to try and support them as best you can, however do not take on work that is the teachers, not yours. If you feel like that is happening speak to your manager.
  • The Teacher and the Teaching Assistant are a team. Try and work well together.
  • Any questions about any children discreetly speak to your teacher.
  • Any issues with children always tell your teacher.
  • Any problems with your teacher talk to them first and if it is not resolved speak only to your line manager.
  • Try and stay positive this will help your teacher more than you can imagine.

Something to consider.

A good experience:

The teacher I have worked with for the last two years is a wonderful teacher, experienced  and we had a lot of fun as well as the inevitable class problems. Within our class we dealt with special needs, classroom behaviour, death, bullying, playground injuries and a variety of other things.

A bad experience:

A teacher at another school would not talk to me and would not look at me when I was in the classroom. In the end I actually asked if she liked me because I felt I was being treated quite badly. She said she did but nothing changed so in this instance I could only believe the issue was her and her alone.

She is not longer a full time teacher.

So there is a bit of pot luck but on the whole I have had only positive experiences.

Inclusion…does it work?

Wheelchair-Inclusion.jpgInclusion in schools is about no longer distinguishing between “general education” and “special education” programs.

At its most basic it means children with special needs join school in mainstream classes, this does work for some children but for others it is proving difficult, not just for the child with special needs but for the other children that are in the classroom.

One lovely child I worked with when I was a LSA (Learning Support Assistant) in another school was a wheelchair user, had autism, physical disabilities and a chronic disease. He was a bright child with a wicked sense of humour, however his special needs would cause to shout out loudly in class, to break wind and disrupt the teaching.

We also caused disruptions by going out of class to do some exercise every 15 minutes. It was at this point that the teacher would more than likely ask me to keep him out because of the disruption caused on the during the lesson.

It saddened me to see the upset caused to the child, teacher and the class, it is clearly unfair on all parties. This happened in every lesson and the teacher was exasperated with whole situation, sadly though this is not an uncommon occurrence.

Teachers have enough on their hands with the differentiation (that means tailoring instruction to meet individual needs. Whether teachers differentiate content, process, products, or the learning environment, the use of ongoing assessment and flexible grouping makes this a successful approach to planning and instruction) within any class.

Each school will have a SENCO (SENCO stands for “Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator”. A SENCO is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the school’s SEN policy. All mainstream schools must appoint a teacher to be their SENCO) whose job it is to help the children follow interventions and other work that has been decided on an IEP (Individual Education Plan is a plan or programme designed for children with SEN to help them to get the most out of their education) between child psychologists, parents, teachers and the school SENCO.

Each child is different and the programme can be very involved, and for the teaching assistant it will be a major part of your role and with 30 children in a class time is at a premium and with school cuts the number of teaching assistant is dropping.

If there are three or four children in one class with SEN and the Teaching Assistant is only employed for four hours a day is it really possible to do all that is required?

So does inclusion work? Inclusion in principle is a great idea as we live in a world where people are very different and it is lovely children just accept how people are.

However, children are individuals so the solution needs to be individual. There are numerous examples of children with SEN who have successfully integrated in mainstream schools which has been a benefit to both themselves and their peers.

On the other hand if it is not working with a particular child who exactly is it benefiting? Not the child, the class or the school, maybe we need to find specialist help for those who cannot integrate because surely if we don’t we are letting them down?