Category Archives: Support staff ideas/CPD

Magic Summer TA Literacy and Numeracy Moments.

Our summer rota of sharing ideas has been based on literacy and numeracy and both teaching staff and TAs have been sharing their ideas with the rest of the staff. The learning needs of our students means that we have quite a large number of teaching assistants for the size of our school and they play a crucial role in supporting both the social and academic needs of the students who they support. They did use to be called learning support assistants and I’m not sure why they prefer TA’s [if they actually do!] but the reality is that if you summed up all of the roles they played for individual children, there would be far too many initials to describe their role with any accuracy! I’m not a great one for being precious with the names of things and am only concerned with actions and deeds that benefit our learners-my colleagues who aren’t teachers are all action packed super-heroes to me!

Who better to talk about the impact on learning that penny dropping literacy and numeracy moments have than our TAs! In many cases they stay with the same students for the majority of the day [sometimes 5 years!] and they understand how improved literacy/numeracy can help to break down learning barriers. We have 2 special bases in school-1 for students with Asperger’s syndrome and 1 for students with dyslexia-and have built up a wealth of experience in supporting the varying but specific learning needs of an above national average number of students. These are the first ones on my rota!



Before a student begins to write, I always remind them about capital letters, full stops etc. I encourage the students that I work with to check back over their work, checking for capital letters, full stops, commas, etc., and double check their spellings. If necessary I will suggest that I read it back to them, but only if they request me to.


I tend to always take down notes and write my own examples, so if a student doesn’t understand the task that they have been given to do, I will try to explain what I have written down. If there are more than a couple unsure, then I will catch the teacher’s attention to explain again.


I work 1:1 with a student in a year 10 maths lesson and have known (since year 7) that this student needs repetition until he can retain the formula needed to work things out.  The maths homework, usually 25 similar questions each week, was a real problem at first and his results were around 9 or 10 out of 25.

When marking homework in class I found the best way to help him was correct any mistakes on the homework sheet.  By showing all the stages of working out and writing simple notes of what stages to take to get the correct answer.  I tried to do this over and over each week and asked him to refer to the sheet to help with the homework for the following week.

This student now regularly achieves marks in the high teens/early twenties. Maths used to be the subject he found most difficult, but achieving good results has given him much more confidence.

Sarah [Asperger’s base]

During social times in the base the students may choose to do independent reading and some of the students will visit the library. We also have ‘Social and communication’ board games and card games out on display so that students can pick these up and play. This can lead to discussion and encourage them to share interests with each other and with staff.

One example of this is student A who would for a while routinely pick up the General Knowledge quiz and fire questions at me almost every lunchtime. This encouraged his literacy and his speaking and listening and really boosted his confidence being quizmaster. This started as a 1:1 but he has now begun to speak up more in small groups in the base and will even challenge some of the other students during debates, giving his own opinions and he will now sometimes greet me with ‘Good morning Miss’ which is great to hear.


Literacy – using a revision board game to assist learning.

B was struggling to grasp the plot and characters of An Inspector Calls, I had tried various strategies to help such as little character cards and work sheets.

I decided to use a board game of An Inspector Calls to aid his learning and help him to focus on the characters.  B understood the board game as the group asked questions and discussed the characters together, which gave HIM a greater understanding of the characters, which gave Nathan extra confidence with the understanding of An Inspector Calls.

When we were reading Heroes, he found it hard to differentiate between what was happening ‘now’ and what a flashback was. He was getting very frustrated, as we went through the book so I made sure that every time we began on a new chapter, B was aware of what had happened and what was happening.  I constantly prompted him to reinforce the timeline of the book.  This did help B to have a greater understanding of the book.


The only thing at the moment I can think of is An Inspector Calls board game that was from one of the emails you sent. I put together the game for year 10 and 11 revision with quotes, themes, characters and content cards. On the other side of the board was a past exam question with hints and tips on how to answer it with the language devices. The students, I have been told, enjoy them very much and they are learning at the same time.  As we are doing different texts in each teaching sets I have since devised Blood Brothers and A Christmas Carol!! During the summer I will be busy devising a Trivial Pursuit poetry game for the students to try and remember the 15 poems, quotes and poetic devices used for their exam. A game for each Year 10 set.

Sara [maths intervention]

In the groups I work with I always ensure the students take turn reading the question, then highlight what they feel is important and relevant and then in their own words describe what is being asked of them to solve.

The work sheet handed to them in the session will concentrate on one particular topic. This provides me with the opportunity to observe if they are managing it.  After a period of approx. 5 weeks they are given a summary sheet comprising of several topics, already covered, and their answers are rated red, amber, and green.  This helps us to monitor their understanding and ensure that progress is being made, if their target is not met it can then be addressed by the teacher in the lesson.



I work on a one-to-one session with B and I tend to go over work that we have done in English, so most of my notes and sheets originally come from Miss and some that I collect in lesson. The work we would cover is the work we had previously done in lesson, e.g.: work for their GCSE Literature Exam… Of Mice & Men, A Christmas Carol, Blood Brothers and Poetry. I would break it down for him and he would make notes on the characters as we discussed them. I printed off some poems so that we could discuss comparing them like he would have to in the exam but using the same criteria we used in lesson. B needed reassurance that they did understand all points of the Literacy that they would be expected to complete, we used Miss’s scheme of work and tried various questions that could be asked in the exam. My object of my one-to-ones is to reinforce his knowledge of the subject and therefore give him more confidence in himself.


This term the students I support are studying Macbeth with the text in Shakespearian language. They have found the language very difficult to understand so therefore had trouble making sense of the play. To help them understand the language used, I made Macbeth word mats, in alphabetical order, the Shakespearian words in red and the equivalent modern day definition next to it in black. After laminating them they are put on the desks as the class read through the text so they can check for themselves the words they don’t know.  It has been interesting to see some of the class being amused by the ‘old’ words and what they meant and they have told me that the mats have helped them to understand the play.

I have also made differentiated work sheets covering the plot, themes, characters and quotes which the students I support, especially those with dyslexia, have found helpful. Some have a word bank at the top, some are to match the point to the correct definition and others are a true or false format. The differentiation means they don’t have to start with a blank sheet of paper in front of them, the correct spellings are given and the writing is reduced to a minimum so they can access the task. One of my colleagues is also using them in her one-to-ones with a student and she has found them of benefit to him to help his understanding.

I have attached (hopefully), a copy of the word mat and some examples of the work sheets.

Macbeth character 2

Macbeth themes reality app.

Macbeth word mat

Who Said



Learning barrier – weak basic literacy and memory skills due to dyslexia

I use of a variety of multisensory activities and resources (some bought, others ‘tailor made’) to build on and support basic literacy skills which are often lacking in students with dyslexia, and which teachers are not able to focus on in English lessons due to time and curriculum restraints. Dyslexic students require constant repetition and practice using these skills in order for them to become embedded.

  • basic punctuation
  • nouns / adjectives/ verbs / adverbs
  • verb tense
  • high frequency / key words spellings


  • phonics / spelling board games
  • card sorts
  • hangman – subject keywords to support and
  • memory games
  • proof reading exercises


Learning barrier – weak number bonds / times tables

Strategies that work:

  • time for calculations
  • multiplication square
  • finger methods
  • working out on paper
  • use of ‘Chinese method’
  • use number line when working with negative numbers

David’s recall of his times tables is poor, however he does know his 2’s, 3’s, 5’s and 10 times tables, so when he comes to a particular sum that he does not immediately remember I encourage him to find one that he does know and work out the new answer from that.

Eg : The question is 6×7

  • David does not know 6×7
  • he does, however, know 5×7
  • he can add another 7 to 35 (using his fingers) to get to 42



  • Supporting my year 7 group, I always remind them about capital letters, full stops etc. in all lessons. I have also encouraged students to pop along to Miss’s handwriting class, which some have done, and I have noticed a difference in their handwriting.
  • I always make sure the students know what is expected from them in the tasks set, and repeat or explain the task if need be. I also assist with spellings as and when necessary, but encourage them to use a dictionary.Numeracy
  • One of the student’s parents said to me that they couldn’t help their child with some of the Maths homework as they didn’t understand what was meant by ‘mode’, ‘median’ etc. in regards to ‘averages’.
  • I have the ‘Usborne Junior Illustrated Maths Dictionary’ at home, so I copied the relevant pages on averages to help them to understand, as this is explained in clear English, giving examples. It is a lower set Maths group and plain English is beneficial for their learning.
  • I gave the student the copy, explaining the different sections so that they could understand, and asked them to show their parent the resource so that they would be able to help the student if they got stuck. Hopefully, this in turn will help the student to further their understanding of averages, and also help them to be able to complete their homework, and may also help both parent and student in the long run.
  • Since then, in their Maths homework, the student has managed to get all the average questions right, and I asked if the resource was helpful and if it helped them to understand, and they said that it had.


I have found that some of the students I support have responded quite well when working with me in small groups to talk about how they will do the writing activity. They discuss SPaG and how to set the work out. I think talking about it beforehand gives them more confidence to try to do the work independently.

I have worked closely with A in PSD. At the start of the year they were very quiet and unsure of themselves but by sitting near them to encourage and reassure them I feel, has helped them become much more confident and they often participate in class now.


My Magic Moment – Literacy

I am working with year 11 and they have just been preparing for their exams and mainly revising in lessons.  At this stage in their school life it is hard for me to make a big impact on their learning and development as they are only covering what they have already learnt.  The main achievement I can pick out is that pupil A really struggles with the English reading exam and severe dyslexia is the pupil’s barrier.  In preparation, pupil A has done extra reading during morning registration with me to practice his reading and we have managed to find a technique that works really well.  Pupil A picks out single words and then uses them as quotes linking them directly to what the question is asking.  This is helping with the time constraints in the exam as pupil A finds reading the text torturous and very time consuming.


One of many pupils I support in my class is a girl who is always very reluctant to doing as she has been asked and write her answers down. She loves to doodle throughout the lesson and keeps her head down. Most of the time, to encourage her to complete her work, I write an exercise down expecting her to write an answer. She rarely makes an effort and it makes my job really hard as she is not the only pupil I support.

Anyway, this particular maths lesson the teacher asked pupils to complete a work sheet. The girl was reluctant….and kept on doodling on the white board ignoring what I said to her, ‘here is a choice: you either collaborate with me or I will take the white board away. I suggest you write a sum down, and then write an answer down. While I am writing a next sum down you draw a smiley face on a board for your effort.’ I counted one, two, three and she made a right choice and moved the board away which meant I have won a tiny start battle! We carried on working like that. This strategy of giving her a choice really worked as she completed not just Challenging and More Challenging columns but a half of Superstar material too. She was amazed at her achievement as there was a visual proof of her brilliant work in front of her. The white board had a couple of really nicely shaped and coloured smiley faces in, but most importantly her book and her self-esteem was full too.


The pupil’s in my year 8 set are very lively and keen to learn.  In science they are very enthusiastic and try their best with each topic.

Some of the pupil’s take a little longer to grasp new information when starting a new topic but with mine and the teacher’s support they begin to understand. I support the students by breaking down the information for them to access successfully and make sure that they understand before moving on.

They are confident when drawing graphs. They are willing to have a good go. I support them by explaining why it’s important to draw on the lines and evenly space out numbers.

As there are pupils with Dyslexia in this set I find it’s important to support with spelling, but I don’t make it a big issue, as I feel if a pupil is confident with the topic and working well independently, it is important for them to maintain that confidence and independence.

There is one pupil in particular who finds it very difficult to think of his own ideas and will quickly copy someone else’s answer instead of thinking of his own. This is down to his learning need and having lack of confidence accessing his own knowledge of the topic. I support this pupil by asking him gentle questions and helping him to think about what he is being asked. We do arrive at the correct answer with some discussion.

There is also a pupil in my set who has hearing difficulties. She wears hearing aid and uses a radio aid that is worn by the teacher. This connects to receivers that are attached to her hearing aids. I make sure that the teacher has the radio aid for the lesson. I will frequently check that the pupil can hear the teacher and other pupils when the lesson includes some discussion. If any information has been missed I will repeat it to her. It is important for her to access all of the key words in lessons and topics.

They are very good at drawing and love discussion, this aids their learning immensely. They embrace topics that may initially seem to be tricky. They are comfortable with each other as a class and are very supportive of each other.


I work with a student who is very competent in Maths but is often let down by his times table knowledge.

Although he picks up new topics easily and understands the strategies his work is hampered by his lack of basic knowledge and slow recall of Times Tables.

He enjoys puzzles very much so I have been giving him codes to crack that reveal the answer to jokes. He has enjoyed working them out even though the jokes are terrible!

We have been timing him to see how quickly he can find the answers and his time has been steadily improving. This has also shown improvement in his class work as his recall of Times Tables had become noticeably quicker




My input on helping students develop numeracy skills are. I myself requested an exercise book from Miss Filson. As I am sitting my GCSE maths, I find it encourages the students when learning a new topic on the curriculum. This enables both student and myself to learn and build up a technique of how to solve the problem.

I record everything down in my book from the lesson. And talk it through with many of the students, who are struggling, with the learning objective; by having a record of the work in my book, this enables me to revert back to any of the topics that have been covered.

The objective of the lesson, was to learn about solving equations. My input on this lesson; was one of the students needed a partner, I assisted by pairing up with a student. Each pair had a white board and were asked to solve the question; that had been placed on the board. The equations started off easy, but became harder and challenging. The student and I worked out different steps of the equation step by step, breaking it down, we both knew that both sides of the equation had to balance like scales. The student had forgotten how to expand the brackets; this is where I informed the student, by stating that everything inside the bracket had to be multiplied by the number outside the bracket. The student then made me aware of how the inner core of the equation had BIDMAS, so therefore the symbols changed to the opposite (+ = -) & (x = /) and vice versa. After several attempts both the student and I had achieved to master the subject; by interacting and talking through the problem solving question.

Example :                                         2 x – 4 = – 18

(+4)                 (+4)

2 x = – 14

(/2)     x = -7    (/2)        (balance each side)

All students and I had to close our eyes; and raise our hands to see whether:

  • Who could do the equation?
  • Who could do half of the equation?
  • Who was still struggling with equation?

All the students choose which question they had been asked and answered truthfully.

When Miss Filson saw that the students felt confident with the topic, we then all engaged in a mind growth setting activity: called speed dating, here each student was either labelled to be A or B. the person labelled A stayed stationary; whereas B had to rotate around the room, changing a new partner each time. Each student and I were given a printed sheet with equations on to solve. By doing this I found that each person had their own strategies of breaking down the equation, and we learnt from each other by interacting and talking about of how to solve the equations.

All the students by the end of the activity were asked once e again to close their eyes and raise their hand to the questions asked previously. On this occasion all the students raised their hands to say that they have mastered solving equations.

Both students and I found this lesson to be fun. It showed that by going that little bit more by encouraging and assisting each other through this task; that all of the students and I achieved their goal on how to solve equations


I popped into the end of a maths’s lesson to see Jen and both Hayley and Jen were excited to tell me about what had been happening in the lesson! I’m delighted to see Hayley is going to take her own maths G.C.S.E. and Alison Roberts told me she is taking her French G.C.S.E. Helen and Christine have asked to go on signing courses and we have been discussing as SLT, how we can build more time in for vital TA CPD next year. We recognise their value and support and want to equip them with the changing skills their crucial role requires. It is important that they, like the teaching staff, have the opportunities and forum to collaborate and share ideas with each other and to trial and new ideas without fear of failure.


Making the most of our TA’s part 2

I wrote this a year ago and shared internally but not on our external school blog as I sometimes send articles off to different educational publications-I forgot about this one! There is some interest and discussion re the best use of, and best CPD for teaching assistants, so this is perhaps a good time to share some of our work, although we have some way to go and have exciting plans for next year to provide more TA training time.

Since I wrote part 1 of ‘Making the most of your TA’s, the TA world has moved on again and recent Ofsted inspections have begun to not only observe and comment on the teacher/TA planning, relationship and in-lesson active support [or not] but the role of the SENCO in quality assuring the work of the TA’s AND in the identification of the impact of their support on learning.

“The special educational needs co-ordinator tracks students and monitors appropriately the quality of the teaching assistants’ work. She recognises that the next steps include identifying the impact of their support on students’ learning.” Levenshulme High Ofsted Feb 2014

I explained in the original article, how as part of our CPD support for our TA’s I had been developing their collaboration and sharing of ideas and helping them to self-reflect on the quality and nature of the support they were offering our students. The identification of the impact of their support had therefore began in a basic way last year and this was quite disconcerting for our TA’s who weren’t use to being observed, interviewed and asked about impact. The teaching staff of course, accept this as the norm and expect to have to complete intervention tracking of different individuals and cohorts to the nth degree. The influx of pupil premium money and local authority money for statemented students was also asking for accountability and evidence of impact to prove best value so it became inevitable that we would be looking to secure a tighter overall view on how appropriately and effectively support was being provided.

Integrating these new needs into our CPD plans for the TA’s and the whole school direction and vision for 2013-2018 with regards to developing and sustaining our collaborative approach to the ‘quality of teaching’, wasn’t actually too difficult! The journey to TA self-evaluation of their impact had begun-this is our story so far!

The September 2013 inset for teaching staff discussed, amongst other issues, how each individual teacher could make their own contribution to the whole school quality of teaching and how that could be evaluated. The 1 off lesson observation grade is certainly not an accurate guide to being a ‘great teacher’ at this school-there are many contributory, often collaborative factors that need to be considered and self-evaluated. I devised a quirky quiz-‘Super Teacher’-to support the discussion and this then led to a ‘Super Learner’ quiz in form time for the students to consider their own contribution to whole school great learning and teaching and then the teaching assistants had; you guessed it, a ‘Super Teaching Assistant’ quiz to help them think about the many things that they do which contribute to the ‘big picture’ of learning and teaching. If everybody here makes their own small contribution, [marginal gain if you like] is aware of how their contribution helps and is valued and can see the impact that their contribution is making both personally and collectively-we might just be on our way to sustaining and developing our quality of teaching to trail-blazing!!

We have more TA’s than other schools in our LA and they represent a much larger percentage of our whole staff than is usual [we are a small school of 720 students] and so providing quality CPD and developing our teaching assistants is absolutely vital for us to offer the best possible support for our most vulnerable students and cohorts. I spoke to the TA’s to explain our ‘vision’ and their role within that before they completed their quiz. I’m not sure why not all schools involve the TA’s or develop them [as mentioned in part 1] but our teachers and students rely on their help and I’m trying to establish this as part of our culture. The quiz, below, isn’t an exhaustive set of questions-I wanted to know what I had missed out but it helped to make a point that being a great teaching assistant is 1] far more than helping with crowd control, dishing out paper and listening to students read and 2] individual support of 1 student not only helps that student but when added to everybody else’s contribution [as with the fluttering of butterfly wings!] has a huge impact on learning.

Super Teaching Assistants

Once or twice a year you are part of an observation process where you contribute to an overall grade/feedback for that lesson-you were brilliant for Ofsted but, of course, observations and inspections only account for less than 1% of the learning and teaching that our students receive.  It is the support you provide in 99.9% of the lessons that you give, that really has an impact on the progress of your student or group. The cumulative effect of each and every one of your contributions helps to make learning and teaching for both students and teachers, a collaborative team effort.  Every little bit that the 85 adults in school add into the learning pot helps-just like Tesco!

The teaching staff have been thinking about their individual contribution to the whole of our learning and teaching [more than just an Ofsted grade]-how could you evaluate your own contribution-hopefully this quiz might help!

Knowing your studentYou understand the learning barriers faced by your student [s]-5You may have read/researched/CPD more about the learning barriers-5You plan and think ahead for different lessons considering the needs of the student and the demands of the lesson-5

You try to learn the skills and knowledge that different subjects require [you know what good learning should look like in them]-5

You may keep a record of your interventions-5

You keep a written or mental record of which interventions and strategies work best for your student-5

You are aware of your student’s targets in different lessons-5

You know how much progress they are making in different lessons-5

You can talk about this in ‘proper terms’!-5

You help them understand the level/skill they are working at and how they can make more progress-5

You contribute accurately to IEPs, meetings with parents, progress measures etc-5

Communication with othersYou are always positive and patient with your student-5Whatever the situation, you remain calm and always model professional behaviour-5You talk to the teachers and ask what they would like you to do-5

When you know the teacher is being observed, you check their plan [if they forget to talk to you!]-5

You may informally chat to the teachers to discuss progress and ideas-5

You discuss your support with other TAs in formal and informal situations to seek advice or share ideas-5

If you realise a colleague needs support and advice-you offer to help-5

You may contact parents via planners/notes-5

You may speak to parents or email-5

You seek out other TAs who support the same students/class and share ideas-5

You aren’t afraid to ask for advice/or offer it-5

In classYou actively seek intervention opportunities with students [not just your own[ who need it-5You support the teacher when necessary with any BFL issues-5You have equipment ready to support any student without pens etc.-5

You organise and prepare your student for lessons/HWK when necessary-5

You encourage resilience as far as possible-5

You praise, praise and praise again!-5

You build self-confidence and esteem however you can [may be by listening to the answer before hands-up etc.]-5

You always ask for explanations and evidence to support answers-5

You may have to scribe/type-support in exams-you practise this skill-5

CPDYou attend external/internal CPD-5You try to read/research good TA practice in general-5You share any good ideas/practice you find out about-5

You try out any ideas that you find out about from colleagues, courses or other sources-5

You think about and might measure the impact of your new ideas-5

You keep up to date with developments in your area of expertise-5

You share your expertise regularly with other TAs-5

You know your own strengths and weakness and have an action plan to support your own devpt or know how you would like to develop new skills and have an action plan-5

Whole schoolYour attendance is 100% or thereabouts!-5You try to be involved in other areas of school e.g. extra-curricular, charities-5You always represent the school professionally and smartly-5


If you totted up more than 175-fantastic-the drinks are on me at the next Prom-you are a Super TA!

If you beat 150, well done-you get to be with the access group if we run one next year!

Is there anything I missed when I was thinking of all of the skills that you use?  What would you add in?

What are the hardest skills and qualities to develop and which areas of TA work do we need to look at in more detail this year?

In the summer term of 2013, the TA’s had been sharing ‘penny dropping’ moments orally, we had a TA teachmeet with a couple of other schools, shared the latest research on ‘Maximising the Impact of TA’s and I had interviewed/observed all of our TA’s and began to talk about the strategies they used to move around learning barriers, simple measures of the impact they were having and about the CPD that they needed. As part of our whole school sharing of ideas, the teachers, TA’s and mentors were asked to contribute to our ‘to me…to you’ collaborative idea-names on a Friday rota. This moved the idea of evaluating impact on a little further [I provided support if needed] and a written response with evidence required prompted some great responses-I shared some here on our blog;

You can see the questions in the blog and hopefully the shared reflections were well received and helped TA’s to focus on the impact their support was having. During the autumn term it was also TA day and nice as it was for them to share a huge cake and receive some lovely comments from teachers and students; we felt that it would be more beneficial to their cause-‘TA’s- A Class Act’ if we sent our initial article to Unison to show them how we were trying to develop and deploy our TA’s. This was well received by the union and they passed the article to the DFE who contacted me to share our ideas with them whilst they were considering the deployment of TA’s nationally. I don’t know the outcome of their research as yet but within school we engaged with our student voice re the impact they felt that their TA had had on their learning and asked our TA’s to use our intervention tracking to try to self-evaluate and reflect upon their support.

The students were asked these questions;

Making the most of your TA [1]

Student’s name                                                                                                      TA

Help your TA to support your learning by reflecting on key learning moments so far this term and thinking aloud to explain what they did to help YOUR learning.

Which subject [s] do you feel that you have made the most progress in so far this term?

Please explain what you think that the progress you have made is?

Can you explain specifically how your TA helped and supported you to make your progress?

In what other ways has your TA helped you so far? Can you choose the 3 best examples and say why they are so helpful?

Lots of students aren’t lucky enough to have a TA-if you were asked to explain to the other students the best thing about having a TA-what would you say to ‘sell’ your view?

Making the most of your TA [2]

Student’s name                                                   TA                                                       Subject

Help your TA to support your learning by reflecting on key learning moments so far this term and thinking aloud to explain what they did to help YOUR learning.

Do you feel that you have made progress so far this term?

Please explain what you think that the progress you have made is? If you don’t feel that you have made progress-please explain what you feel is making progress difficult?

Can you explain specifically how your TA helped and supported you to make your progress? If you feel that you haven’t made progress-please explain how your TA could support you to achieve your target.

In what other ways has your TA helped you so far? Can you choose the 3 best examples and say why they are so helpful?

How does your TA support and help others in the class including the teacher.

Our students are asked lots of questions about their learning and know that we expect evidence to support their views-talking and writing about their learning  to develop an analytical self-awareness of learning strengths and gaps that need closing-is important for our students and equally for our TA’s so that they can see how the students perceive and evidence impact. It was an interesting exercise and one again that teaching staff do all of the time but perhaps daunting for TA’s trying for the first time in case a student was critical! They weren’t and the feedback was very useful.

TA impact doesn’t have to be measured in grades or levels but sometimes we do need the evidence based on concrete qualitative progress-we have many ways of measuring progress and learning but as in all schools we [for the time being!] deal in termly progress grades and base much of our intervention and tracking on this evidence that is collated and easy to use. Some of the TA’s were familiar with the data and accessing it, some weren’t and I gave them all time out of lessons to gather the data needed and to write up their impact sheets. They don’t like to leave their students but this was needed-they don’t usually have planning time and although the information is useful to the school so that we can show that support is used well and that money coming in is having an impact; it is also of equal importance to train our TA’s for their own development purposes. As soon as some were completed we were able to share good practice to add to my exemplars.

The title was borrowed from Zoe Elder’s Full on Learning and was an obvious contrast to what we don’t’ want from our TA’s-telling and doing the work for the students to support their ‘learned helplessness’!

Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; INVOLVE me and I’ll UNDERSTAND

How have you helped to involve your students in their learning? Complete the IMPACT table for the subjects you support your student in.  Thank you

Student’s name                                                                                                       TA                                                                                                                                 Date

Subject Target grade Current grade Which of your support strategies have worked best? How do you know-what is your evidence? Which areas do you need to focus on next? How do you plan to do this? How will you measure success by the next progress grades? Any general feelings about all of the grades-attitude, HWK etc. How can you support in these areas? How will you measure success by the next progress grades?


I had a go at some exemplar answers;

Student’s name  David Cameron                                                                                            TA  Theresa May                                                                                                                               Date Oct 2013

Subject Target grade Current grade Which of your support strategies have worked best? How do you know-what is your evidence? Which areas do you need to focus on next? How do you plan to do this? How will you measure success by the next progress grades? Any general feelings about all of the grades-attitude, HWK etc. How can you support in these areas? How will you measure success by the next progress grades?


4 3+ The APP showed he was weaker at writing and especially paragraphing. I used the VCOP pyramid every time he had to write an extended piece  [in every subject not just English]He was able to secure level 4 work in his writing, with my support. He enjoys reading story books but his inference skills are weak when we tackle comprehension style exercises and his last assessment was only a 3. I will keep asking him to skim and scan for basic information and encourage him to follow the teacher’s advice to highlight key words in the text that tell him about the character or question posed. If he can achieve a level 4 by Xmas in classwork [in other subject too when we have to find answers from text]-success! His behaviour grade is good but sometimes he forgets his HWK. I check his planner and write it down for him but he still forgets. I will contact home to have a chat with Mum to see what else I can try.


The TA’s produced much better impact sheets!

A finds maths very challenging.  We have recently been studying trigonometry and Pythagoras which are grade C topics.  A really struggled during the first lesson on trig when the theory was taught and I could see he felt uncomfortable because of this.  Once the teacher finished and set some work for the class to do, I reassured him and told him we would go through it together step by step.  I told him to write each step down clearly in his book so he could follow it when completing future questions.  Once I went through it with him, he seemed more at ease and we continued to complete a couple more together step by step.  By the end of the lesson, he felt much better and was able to complete the questions with only small prompts between each step of his working out or when he was unsure what to do next.The next lesson was much the same.  The first question we did together then I just prompted him between steps.  By the end of the lesson, he was working independently and he would ask me between each step if he was correct and as long as he saw me nod, he would continue and complete the questions. 

A needs reassurance to help build his confidence in this subject, particularly when looking at new topics.  In their end of topic test A achieved a D (68%) and B achieved a C (81%).  They were the top 2 marks in the class.


Times tables are big concerns for A.  I got him a times tables grid which he kept on the desk each lesson last year but this only helped him as a short term tool to answer questions there and then.  He really needs to practice them to memorise them.  I need to try and think when this could take place.————————————— 

B has achieved top marks in every maths test he completed in year 9 and year 10 in his class so far.  He is keen to learn maths and he seems to be able to digest problem questions and break them down into small steps to work them out.  I will speak to Miss to find out what he is doing next.

A’s attitude has improved this year and his confidence has grown in the topics he has had more practice in. 








B’s attitude is fantastic and always wants to improve on his scores.

Which of your support strategies have worked best? How do you know-what is your evidence? Which areas do you need to focus on next? How do you plan to do this? How will you measure success by the next progress grades? Any general feelings about all of the grades-attitude, HWK etc. How can you support in these areas? How will you measure success by the next progress grades?
Use big write cards/alphasmart/Task organiser and sometimes give framework to do extended piece. Spelling /punctuation and homophones. Support and prompting to check and edit his work. Improved levels and student remembers to P.E.E . He can complete independent writing and is well motivated.Checking through questions A understands the task and asking him to repeat what it is he has to do ( to check for literal interpretations and ensure he understands the audience and purpose)Recording homework and checking understanding.



Need to keep checking spelling and punctuation – try to get student to print and check his own work and revise it. Paragraphing prompts and extending answers. Keep a check for literal meaning and make sure the purpose and audience is targeted appropriately and through 1:1 discussion develop his social awareness, communication and interpretation skills. Get  A to edit his work and print off himselfHandwriting practise  to continue – sometimes lacks effort and motivation with presentation 
A has improved his grade from Summer from D- to D. He has weak reading and writing skills so working on a computer helps, but I need to take over when he is falling behind. He is gets a bit frustrated saying he doesn’t understand, but I re-iterate what the teacher has instructed so that he can understand, and keep repeating instructions as and when necessary. I need to get A to understand the marks process for the assessments and up and coming exams. I have told him to check what mark is needed, as it is in brackets after each question and that the mark will determine how much he needs to put in his answer. I am also trying to get him to ‘peel’ and ‘snowball’ a bit more, adding a bit more substance to his answer with reference to his own knowledge. A is doing well, though he doesn’t think he is, so I try to keep him positive by reiterating how well he is doing. Prompting him helps to keep him on task.Once again, he needs to go onto the VLE and look at past papers to revise for his exams….he tells me he will, and I’m sure that he will.


Different ways of thinking about and showing impact are fine too!

English Target grade E current grade E on target

A’s reading age has increased. I have worked with A on a 1-1 basis and have focused on reading. His confidence has improved and he now reads out loud in class and in small groups surrounded by his peers. A and I have worked through a hand writing programme and his writing is much improved and now writes more independently than ever before. This has impacted on his ability and confidence to complete his homework independently at home, he is still able to come to me if he is unsure but this is happening less and less. A has struggled with the basics in English and we have worked very hard to achieve a solid understanding of how to use paragraphs and working with similes. Our 1-1 sessions have been used to boost confidence and cement understanding of tasks from lessons and this has meant differentiating the work for him but by doing this he was able to achieve his target grade in his recent exam. By building his confidence I have seen a big improvement in his behaviour, although this is an area still to be worked on. I have targets for A in our 1-1 sessions and these are now to improve punctuation and spellings this will include differentiating his work to meet the new targets.

The strategy I use mostly in maths is one of copying an example of the work into A’s book therefore allowing A to follow it for the rest of the questions.  I work through step by step any questions she is unsure of. This shows my strategy works when A can complete the questions without me if I move away to support another student in the set. As A struggles to retain information and subjects in maths we have done before I am making her a little revision book with questions, notes & examples in. I am hoping this will help her in checking she is doing it right and therefore help her improve her grade. A always completes her homework. However her attitude is one of ‘I can’t do it’ so I still need to keep reassuring her that she is capable of doing the work set and try to find a way of helping her learn her timetables. I can measure this by her grades.


B’ Summer grade was E. His grade has improved and he has become more involved with the drama tasks. The pupils have to produce their own piece and B is becoming more involved with the group he is working with.I have used intervention to help B to complete his homework instead of taking it home, so that he doesn’t need to worry about it, which is helping his progress. Getting B to actually perform in a drama piece is always a challenge, but he takes his lines home and learns them. He then has more confidence to speak.B can also be quite negative going into class; however he works well within groups he is working with, which is also helping with his speaking skills. I always reiterate how well he is doing and keep a positive approach with him. I help B with his homework during lunch hours or break times, so that he doesn’t need to worry about completing it at home. This helps to keep him focussed as it is usually work which we have recently covered and it is still fresh in his memory. There is a lot of writing for the homework and B’s writing isn’t very clear so it helps the teacher to be able to understand what B wants to say, which, in turn helps his grade.

I have been delighted with the progress that has been made with our first real foray into much deeper intervention by our teaching assistants. It isn’t an easy process-time is an issue and worries about what is expected and whether the final product will be ‘good enough’ always concerns colleagues, no matter how much reassurance and support is available. People want to give of their best and that’s a good thing and one of the great things about working here.  Completing these forms 3 times a year may be asking too much but I’m convinced that the reflection involved helps to develop the skills of our TA’s and as a consequence helps to make support and intervention even more structured and thoughtful. The chief beneficiaries-our students! Of course, so far the discussions have been quite basic in the ‘measuring of impact universe’ and I will begin to push for every sentence to be explained thoroughly-“I can measure this by her grades”-what grades, how will you measure, is this the most appropriate measure and so on. Measuring success in very specific terms has become an art form in itself and provided that using data still remembers there is a person behind the numbers and isn’t just a paper SLT exercise whim-we will continue to develop these responses.

After Easter, I will return to sharing ideas again and as part of our whole staff, ‘Magic Moments’ collaboration, the teaching assistants will be asked to give me the opinions of 2 other colleagues using the time in morning briefing to chat and find the answers to these questions;

1] What has been your Magic Moment of the year with the student[s] you support? What made it so special for you?

2] What is the biggest impact you have had on student learning this year? How did you make it happen and please explain your evidence for the impact?

TA’s won’t become a ‘class act’ without appropriate guidance, deployment and in-house support and CPD. They also have to accept, as great teachers must, that they have a responsibility themselves to be open to self-analysis and must constantly seek to be the best TA that they can be. Being a reflective practitioner must be a reality for all colleagues. Our students deserve the best and all adults in Meols Cop are here to ensure that this happens. We’re getting there!



Magic Moments-Unsung Heroes

Much of what we read and share about our schools relates to the students and their teachers. Often forgotten are the army of support staff whose work ensures that great learning and teaching are in a position to happen. Everybody, everything and every bit of hard work in this school is focused on providing the very best learning for our students-without a clean, inviting environment, without totally focused financial and administrative management, without learning and emotional support for many of our vulnerable children, without fully functioning technology, without healthy food, without committed governors and without the collaborative sharing and commitment of all support staff and all in our local community-our students and teachers would not be able to learn and teach so wonderfully well.

I revealed some of their stories in September in our “To me—to you” series of staff shared ideas and the impact they have had on student learning. Our oldest member of staff is our cleaner Joe who keeps the corridors and dining room spotlessly clean all day long-Joe is 75 and refuses to retire because he loves working here and the students love him too! Sandra, our examinations officer, clerk to the governors and much more besides, attended Meols Cop as a girl and has stayed for 39 years!  I can think of at least 7 other colleagues who came here and many are parents of ex or current students/partners/relatives of staff etc. Maureen Fearn, our ex chair of governors and long-time governor, friend of the school and Mayor of Sefton; attended Meols Cop when it opened in 1941! They are quite a shy bunch, [although not at staff do’s!] and I haven’t shared photos or slides of their work BUT I have asked all of our staff to share their ‘Magic Moments’ with each other since Easter. They were asked to talk to each other and then feed comments back on behalf of someone else! The rota finishes in June but I couldn’t wait to share some of the ‘moments’ with a wider audience-some are funny, many touching and all indicative of the care and dedication that the unsung heroes-the support staff-provide for schools and children across our country. Thank you to all of them.

Names of students and colleagues have been removed.

1] A is a young man who arrived at Meols Cop with many anxieties and a very negative report around his behaviour at Primary school. He had also recently suffered a parental bereavement. A had a number of social and communication difficulties and was demonstrating traits/issues that led us to make a referral to both the speech & language service as well as CAMHS. A was regularly accessing support from the base and would get quite anxious if there were any changes to his normal or desired daily routine and structure.

However, despite all these issues and struggles, the key thing is A had a really strong desire for things to be better than they currently were.

I have communicated with and worked very closely with his T.A, over the last couple of years to put together a support system that both meets A’s present needs as well as challenges him to make changes which will help him develop holistically. A does struggle with new ideas, but after a lot of encouragement and giving it some though, A trusts us enough to give something a try.

A HUGE step forward for A is the fact that in the last few months, he has started doing extra-curricular activities.

A significant challenge was getting him to be involved with our Inclusion Cabaret Evening, attend rehearsals, and then perform on stage.

Last week A did his first Inter-form. A real heart-warming moment was seeing him smiling and celebrating his forms WIN in modern sportsmanship style (lots of hugs with the other lads and rolling around the floor celebrating!) Not bad for a kid who shunned and squirmed at physical contact a few months back.

Yesterday A joined me on an after-school session with some other Year 8 lads down at the YMCA doing his first ever climbing wall session. Despite some initial apprehensions and a short chat, A then entered into the session undertaking every instruction, request and activity with full enthusiasm. He climbed to the top of the wall confidently and enjoyed the company of a group of other Year 8 boys.

A is now doing a number of activities outside his ‘comfort zone’. Personally, I see this as MASSIVE progress and light years difference from the boy that was described by Primary school.

2] I called into a shop and an ex student was currently working there. She was really pleased to see me and updated on what had happened since she left 6 years ago.  She is settled in a relationship and has a young child and has just moved into her own home. 

During the time she spent at Meols Cop she could be very quick tempered and would often walk into a classroom in a bad mood and get into conflict with her teachers. We spent time discussing how when her mood wasn’t right and she felt she was being challenged for her behaviour, she would put her defences up to protect herself.  Over the weeks she identified that she was little a hedgehog, plodding along but if stood on her prickles or spines her spines would come out to protect herself.  This she found a great way to understand how prickly her attitude could be perceived in the classroom.  I would then call her “Prickles”

On the day she left Meols Cop I purchased an outdoor garden hedgehog boot cleaner, with clear instructions for her to wipe her bad mood as she approached the door on the back on the hedgehog.Whilst talking to her in the shop she told me with a big smile on her face, “I still have my hedgehog and I love it, I brush off the bad things from my day, leave them at the back door, thanks Miss”

3] B arrived in the mentor’s office with her mock Maths exam paper.  She was so pleased and very proud of herself as she had a very strong grade C.  She has worked hard over the last few months and attended after school revision and home tutor.  Her hard work is paying off and I hope this will give her a real confidence boost ready for the exam.

4] My Magic Moment has to be last week with C. In an English Literature class he managed to annotate a poem on his own. In the resit class he wrote the answers to three questions on a past paper and wrote a page and a half and used quotes!!!! In the time limit too!!!!!

5] We feel our greatest contribution has been simply keeping things running, dealing with phone calls etc. and staying on top of photocopying, letters and Progress Stars!

2] What has been your Magic Moment involving the students this year-what made it so special?

Helping students with first aid – seeing some who are crying or ill or in pain come back later/the next day looking themselves again.

6] My “Magic Moments” are often indirect, the one I had recently was with a member of staff working with a student from the ASD Base.The student was uncooperative and difficult with a member of staff who was working 1:1 with him.I passed on a number of strategies to support the student, the member of staff said that she  felt much more empowered to help him, and the outcome was made special for me from the  feedback that the strategies had had a positive effect

Another example of indirect support for a student, was to explain and relate the difficulties of a child with ASD to the” Triad of Impairments” to his parents, who were totally bewildered as to how to handle their child’s unusual behaviours and anxieties.

Discussing with them the problems common to many of our students with ASD,  helped to alleviate some of their anxieties and gave them more confidence in  their parenting skills, plus the knowledge that other children experience challenges to their condition, and that their child is understood and will be supported in school.

A typical example of how a small intervention can impact on a students learning resulted from a parents telephone call early in the day, it was explained to me that the student was extremely anxious about an exam taking place that day.

Speaking to the student I could pass on to him where to access the advice he needed before the exam began, going through a step by step procedure of what to expect to happen, lessened his anxieties and gave him confidence and equipped him with independence strategies to resolve his own challenges.

Afterwards asking the student how the exam had gone the student’s reply was “it was alright” told me he had coped well, and in future he will be able to draw on that experience and realise that he did it himself with just a little back up.

Facilitating small changes for any student can make all the difference to them, and this makes my role in school feel worthwhile.

Over a period of time staff can build up relationships and good communication between students on the Autistic spectrum and it is the most valuable tool in supporting them.

7] My “Magic Moment” was preparing a student for exams, e.g. devising a revision time table for him to follow at home. Because I am reinforcing coping strategies, organisational skills and resources, he is becoming more independent and carrying out these tasks in lessons automatically, using time management.

This was made special for me as the student has got into his own routine and become more self- reliant. This support has had the biggest impact in respect of how unsettled he had been before I started to support him, and now he is less anxious, he is using strategies to help him manage, he is more organised and confident.

I have been able to guide, advise and pre-empt difficult social situations for him, helping him to understand them as they have happened. Hopefully evidence of my support for him will show in his exams and how he is able to cope in them.

8] My magic moment, of which there are many, happened recently with a student in Y10 who I have supported since Y7.  Their situation outside school is dire to say the least and most of us as mature, world weary adults would struggle to manage our day to day lives if we lived with such a situation.

However they arrive at school every day, they participate as much as they can and sometimes even achieve something whilst all the time carrying around their enormous burdens.  Sadly the one thing that they don’t understand just yet is that the adults around them may never change their behaviours and may continue on their disruptive path which in turn impacts so negatively on this young person.

My role is to help them understand this sad lesson in life and slowly and gently get them to that point where realisation hits that things may never change.

Yesterday that happened and I saw something shift in this young person which will never shift back and that young person realised that adults can let you down and may never change what they do despite it’s potential to destroy the people around them.  They were quiet and thoughtful and realisation was written all over their face – a magic moment filled with sadness – magic isn’t always about razzamataz!

Now we move forward and continue to support this student and quietly and gently ‘prepare them for life!’

9] As a student with very low attendance and lots of obstacles to overcome, the main difficulties that have come to light has been lack of subject knowledge in many areas. Despite the fact that over the years, a log of missed lessons have been recorded and sent home. More has been needed to be done and so since January this year I have taken more 1-1 sessions to focus on key subjects. I have done this with the student and we have worked through a timetable together. We have broken down past exam papers and worked through them to focus on getting the best out of an exam paper using books, internet, text books and resources collected from staff. We have built on confidence in subject knowledge. I have planned 1-1 sessions on a weekly basis and reviewed again to accommodate absence. I have had to explore subject knowledge that I was not familiar with however it has been a success. We have managed to pull grades up from getting a D grade to getting a B grade and we are confident that we will succeed to get the grades we deserve. This has to be a magic moment but only time will tell.

10] Our magic moment can almost be pin-pointed as happening overnight.

Since C arrived in year 7 we have always worked together closely.  C relied on the support of the base at morning registration, breaks and lunches, always needing to leave lessons a few minutes early to get his lunch as the queues were a real cause of anxiety.  He viewed the base as somewhere he felt safe and secure.  He required a lot of support to cope in lessons, especially with organisation and socially acceptable behaviour.

C is currently in year 9 at the beginning of March this year C decided, completely out of the blue, he would have lunch in the canteen. This progressed to him not being escorted at all, although he knows the base is there for him, he no longer uses it regularly. We have seen him become so independent right before our eyes; he has suddenly grown up and is taking responsibility for his homework and PE kit (also changing for PE in the changing room).  In lessons he has more confidence than ever before, putting his hand up to answer/ask questions without being prompted.  C is now engaging in friendships with peers, going outside at break/lunch and socialising – he appears to be much happier in himself.  Although things can still become too much at times, he knows our support is there to help him.

I hope that the daily support C has been given from everyone concerned since year 7 has eventually paid off and that he continues to grow into an intelligent, independent young man.

11] My magic moment was working closely with D in English; D tries hard in this lesson and has had many exams in it also. One particular exam we had revised and Dhad done extra revision at home, (I scribe for D because of his dyslexia which he gets really embarrassed about.) We worked hard on Macbeth which D hated, but we persevered, we looked at a cartoon version which he seemed to take to more than the book. Exam day came and it was tough going but he worked hard. Miss marked his exam the next week, D  had gone to see his teacher to find out his mark, and my magic moment was when I was sitting in the staffroom at break time and there was a knock on the door, It was for me and outside was Dscreaming he had achieved an A in his Macbeth exam thanking me for helping him get through it. It makes all the hard work worthwhile by getting a simple THANK YOU!

13] Through collecting and assessing our students’ progress levels and grades, I see how each student progresses so well from Year 7-11.  I have not only seen students achieve academically at both Key Stages, but I have seen behaviour, attitude and homework patterns change – some students improving beyond recognition!  Although the actual progress they make isn’t my doing, being able to provide up-to-date reports which show their individual strengths and progression is a great feeling.  This is also true for the Going for Gold incentive scheme.  It is inspiring to see our students working hard to achieve gold and enjoy their day out in the summer (and knowing I contributed to it, of course!)

2] What has been your Magic Moment involving the students this year-what made it so special?

The shining moment for me this year, and every year, has to be our annual rewards evening.  Each year I witness the enormous array of talented students we have here at Meols Cop. Through academic results, levels of endeavour and performing arts talent, I see just how special the Meols Cop experience is.  The recognition our ‘middle of the road’ student receive is so well deserved.  They can often go forgotten as they just ‘get on with it’ and fall off the radar.  There are several students who drift through 5 years un-noticed and it’s wonderful to celebrate their achievements each year.  As a past student, I always look back with great fondness for my time here.  Through managing the stage at the rewards evening I see first-hand just how proud our students are to come here and to represent their school – this is always a great moment for me.  I also had the honour of presenting the annual dance festival earlier this year.  Once again I saw how excited our students (and Primary school students who our students had taught) were to represent our school.  It was a great privilege to be involved.

14] One early morning, she walked into a base only to realise that a boy that she supports has been working at the computer independently, typing away something. Alongside on the table lie a card that she has given him a while ago. The card was a visual reminder to help him go over his written work, check capital letters, full stops, commas, paragraphs and other points to help him achieve higher level in his writing. She was really pleased about this as this meant that constant reminding, guiding and “nagging” has finally paid off! Magic…

Another one of her magic moments was during a PE lesson. The young man that she supports dislikes playing football, basketball or any ball games. One day during rounders with a lot of encouragement from his TA he joined the group and was able to take part in a game. He loved it and did so well that he said excitedly “I have worked out I can run”. I believe she felt proud of him as well as very happy as he managed to enjoy himself in a social situation.

15] A recent piece of descriptive writing for an English assessment showed just how far this student had come. This student was unable to structure a full sentence or understand a simple written instruction at the start of this school year. He has achieved so much, “a wonderful piece of descriptive writing written in the third person and an excellent structure using descriptive techniques such as similes, personification and adventurous vocabulary”.  We have worked together using different techniques from picture building to games and spider diagrams; we have built on using his imagination more and how to get his thoughts into words. He was truly amazed at what he achieved.

16] A told B that she has lots of magic moment’s everyday whilst working with 7.7, which is great to hear! She explained that lots of the support she gives is emotional support and is quite like’ being a mum’ to the year 7’s.

One particular moment in time came as a result of A taking time to recognise the artistic ability of a young man and commenting to him about how good his work was and encouraging him to draw more. By pointing this out to him and encouraging him in art lessons and finding out about the art club available after school, he has grown in confidence and has joined the art club. A few weeks later he turned to A and said, ‘there are only you and my Dad that cares about me’. I think she felt that she had made a great connection with the student and was able to offer him the support he needed.

Another moment, with a different student she was working closely with in Maths who did not know her 3 times tables and found this very difficult. By supporting her in lessons, one- to- one and using her fingers to count up each time and practising the times tables in class she has gradually  learned them. A would ask her surprise questions testing if she could remember the answers and then one lesson she said to A, “I know it now” and she could recall the table steadily and calmly. A told her she would ask her what 3 x 9 is on Monday morning to see if she could still remember the answer. She did remember and from that A was so proud of her and knew that she had made a difference.

17] My magic moment occurs every Wednesday P2 when I’m working with A. It’s such a pleasure working with someone who enjoys maths and is prepared to stretch himself and work hard.

Our whole hour session is dedicated to maths working on topics covered on the higher paper. It’s a joy watching him pick up methods and applying them to solve questions as he works solidly through the exercises. More often than not I leave him with a question to solve and without fail he hands it back to me the following week having attempted the question.

We are now working through past papers and when he answers questions correctly on topics we’ve covered together, I can’t keep the smile off my face!

I will share many more Magic Moments as the summer unfolds and will be asking the students to share theirs as well!





Teaching Assistant CPD

I wrote an article for School Leadership Today in the autumn term and haven’t previously shared this on our blog for parents and others to see. Schools and organisations such as NTEN who asked about it received copies after the publication so that ideas could be shared. The article chronicles my ideas to develop CPD in the summer term of 2013 that would actually support the needs of our TAs and thus have an impact on student learning. This wasn’t because I felt that, or had evidence to suggest, that our TAs weren’t doing a good job! I won’t spoil a good story by revealing why I wanted to develop CPD yet-you can read on and find out more. This is part 1, much more has been developed over autumn and winter and again this has been sent to School Leadership Today and I’ll share these in a later blog. The DFE and Unison have both been involved with using our ideas re the deployment of TAs and I would hope that my general concern and response would be summed up by saying, ‘use them well and effectively or lose them!’ Many schools, ourselves included, have specific primary/secondary teachers rather than TAs to support intervention with some students-this doesn’t mean that TAs don’t have a role anymore-it may be changing and they themselves need to take [as do teachers] responsibility for developing more appropriate skills-as CPD person, my role is to provide the opportunities for this to happen here for ALL staff not just teachers and to help colleagues to reflect, evaluate and develop. We may end up losing staff as they develop new/improved skills but we must develop everyone whilst they are here to give our students the maximum benefit of staff skills and attributes. More of this in part 2!


The army of teaching assistant’s that has grown tenfold over the last 10 years are certainly facing an uncertain and worrying future.  Mr Gove, should he return administrative tasks to teachers and should he save a few billion pounds by reducing the TA work-force, will decimate what has been a controversial support mechanism for classroom teachers in both primary and secondary sectors. Recent Ofsted inspections have begun to comment on the deployment of TAs in lessons [sometimes negatively] as though Mr Gove and Ofsted have been in conversation-a conversation which of course excluded schools and TAs! Pleas on their behalf have poured in to educational blogs from teachers and parents who appreciate the specific and focused support they can offer to individual children whilst Mr Gove may look to research which suggests that their support is, at best negligible and at worst counter-productive. The 2003-2008 DISS project with the aim of providing ‘an accurate, systematic and representative description of the deployment of TAs and other support staff in schools’ found that ‘students receiving the most TA support made less progress than similar students who received little or no TA support-even after controlling for factors likely to be related to academic progress and the allocation of TA support’ [e.g. prior attainment and SEN status]


This was a decent sized survey-18000 responses tracked 8,200 students and assessed the impact of TA support on students’ academic progress in English, maths and science. The comparisons between trained teachers and TAs, whilst being used as a honest description of what was found, can be used to damn by those who may oppose the use of TAs. For example; ‘teachers spent more time explaining concepts than TAs, and TAs explanations were sometimes inaccurate or confusing, teachers are more focused on learning and understanding, while TAs are more focused on completing tasks, teachers are proactive, while TAs are in a reactive role, teachers open up the pupils while TAs close down the talk, teachers promoted pupil engagement and encouraged them to develop their own ideas far more often than TAs did’  The teachers observed were doing what good teachers do!  With professional training and experience behind them it should be expected that they would be making the learning interactive, challenging and using AFL strategies we would now consider an integral part of a good or outstanding lesson.  What would we and what should we expect of a TA who normally may lack the same training and experience? That isn’t to say that the professional qualifications open to TAs aren’t useful but the deployment of TAs by schools and individual teachers may mean that they don’t always have the opportunity to use their skills effectively.


We received a successful Ofsted visit in October 2012, just after the criteria for the quality of teaching was raised a notch or two [or 3 or 4!] and to be honest I had been pouring my energies into developing the teaching skills of my colleagues, whilst keeping the TAs in the loop with regards to their role in the classroom and what was emerging as good TA practice in past Ofsted reports. There was little else to guide me and I relied on my own and my colleagues professional instincts on what was best for our students-always the best guide.  Once Ofsted had gone, I began immediately to think of strategies that would sustain our outstanding teaching and realised that, although our TAs had supported their students really well in front of the inspectors, I was guilty of not giving their CPD the same attention as I had given the teachers.  We are a small school with 56 teachers and 30 TAs [2 special units for dyslexia and Asperger’s] so you can see that we have a greater percentage of TAs than many other high schools. [Certainly in our area] An article in the New Year edition of Every Child Up-date explained how one academy had been trying to define the role of TAs in relation to teachers and the good practice described galvanised me into action and I used some of the resources in after school discussions with volunteer TAs to raise questions about their expectations of what they should offer in class and how the teacher should treat and use them. 


Time was an issue. Because of the nature of support there was little opportunity for them all to meet in school time and the expense of bringing them all in for an inset day [30 lots of a day’s wage] is difficult to fund these days and would blow the inset budget in one go! I decided to begin with a three pronged campaign to improve TA CPD and make them feel valued [which they were but may not have always felt it] I actively encouraged them to look at training possibilities-LJMU came in to large groups of volunteers, Unison offered free courses and other reasonably priced providers such as Lancashire LA were also used.  The success of the teaching at Meols Cop is based on collaboration and sharing, so I began to go into 1 TA briefing a week to get them to talk to each other and jot down ideas to share-they already talked informally but this was part of a process to get them to think about that favourite word of inspectors-IMPACT-which they will have to use much more often when supporting IEPs, statements and pupil premium form filling.  This isn’t easy-teachers are used to having to constantly provide evidence-TAs were not quite so sure, so I used some user-friendly booklets to help keep a record, if they wanted to, of important ‘penny dropping’ moments and another one to help share best ideas;

When and where did the learning penny drop? Next steps for you and your learner!

With whom?  
What happened? Note the specific progress


What did I do to help? Did I do something different?
Where next with their learning? How can I help?
New ideas tried: Initial impact: How can I develop the idea?
Great examples of collaboration with teachers:
Note: Progress may be related to IEP targets, target grades, lesson objectives, success criteria, written feedback, 6Cs, group-work, independent learning guidelines, home-learning, target cards, and so on.


Weekly reflections and sharing

The best moment of my week:
What happened?  
Why was it so special?  
What progress did the student make? Can you give a specific measure?
Why did it happen? What did you do to make it happen?
Could this idea be used with other students or in other subjects? How?
Other developments this week:
Any other positive developments?  
Any concerns?  
Ideas to try:  

To continue with the sharing of ideas and internal CPD, a morning conference was organised during our Sport’s Week, when the students were involved in a ‘World Cup.’ Teaching assistants were invited from two other high schools with a similar student profile. ‘Speed dating’ allowed quick introductions and collaboration before we discussed our documents concerning teacher and TA expectations.  It’s unusual for TAs to meet each other, in our area, and be able to ‘talk shop’ and hopefully we can facilitate more such ‘TAmeets’   One document that proved to be of real interest was our ideas as to how students develop their partnership with their TA.


Learning and making outstanding progress with your Teaching Assistant

It’s a great opportunity to have someone to support your learning in the Meols Cop classroom-how can you make the most of your Teaching Assistant?

  • Show and give respect to your TA, as you would with your teachers
  • Do speak to your TA about your learning-they are there to help you become independent learners [but not to spoon-feed and do it for you!]
  • Listen carefully to your teacher’s instructions and be ready to explain to your TA, what you have to do.
  • Always try you very best and take care and pride with your piece of learning before showing it to your TA.
  • Make sure that there is a chair and table ready for your TA to sit and support you at.
  • If the teacher is asking for answers to be said aloud in class and you are unsure if you have it right-whisper it to your TA to confirm and then answer-we want you to shine and get praises!
  • It is always nice for you to say “thank you” to your TA for helping you!
  • Have your planner handy in case your TA needs to help you with it.
  • If you are feeling fed-up or worried-speak nicely to explain to your TA-try not to take out any unhappiness or grumpiness on anyone else!
  • Try to avoid saying “I can’t do it” to your TA-think hard first; Have you listened carefully? Can you remember a similar problem before-how did you solve it?  Can your partner help?
  • If they aren’t there for some reason-don’t panic-your teacher will have planned to support you but you may have to be patient. Sometimes another TA may come to support you-explain to them how they can best help you and what works best for you [this doesn’t mean trying to get them to do all the work for you!!]  Make them feel comfortable in a new situation for them so that they can help you as best as they can.
  • Your TA may have to support other students too-share them out! We are all responsible learners at Meols Cop who must support each other’s learning-if another student needs help-lend them your TA!


The last point may be recognisable to TAs-students don’t like their TA to be shared at times and that can become an issue and certainly Ofsted seem to have a liking for observing TAs whizzing around the room, rather than staying with 1 student.  This does raise issues with statemented students [worth another article]. The table below which we have shared with schools we support breaks down least effective to most effective strategies of using TAs in lessons and I would expect to see the most effective ones used here!

TAs are not involved in the lesson and given little or no direction-you may not have spoken to them of shared tactics, you don’t speak to them in the lesson, they stick rigidly with one student [may be acceptable in certain circumstances] 


TAs are not well deployed in all aspects of the lesson-perhaps you miss opportunities where they could have supported your teaching strategies or specific student learning needsYou have a good relationship with your TA and it is obvious that you discuss their role and support normally TAs are well deployed to support learning.You have a good relationship with your TA and it is obvious that you discuss their role and support-you use them flexibly in the lesson and direct them to where they are needed most today Your TA is obviously involved in the planning and you constantly communicate in the lesson to ensure that the learning needs of, all of your students is supported.

The deployment of the TAs should be planned for and supports the differentiated learning needs of the learners so they are all challenged and make successful learning gains.

TAs are worried about their future and we discussed the DISS findings and then turned to the authors of the same research for a more optimistic view of the future.  During a conversation in school with Dr Susan Graves of Edge Hill University,the author of ‘Chameleon or Chimera? The Role of the Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) in a Remodelled Workforce in English Schools’, Sue guided me towards ‘Maximising The Impact Of Teaching Assistants’ by Russell, Webster and Blatchford and I was able to use some of the key ideas from the book to consider previous poor practice with the deployment of TAs and offer a way forward. The re-evaluation of current practices, which the authors feel is letting the most vulnerable students down, needs to involve school leaders and they need to consider how their school deploys, TAs, the expectations they have of them and how they will lead the change.  The book is full of good ideas to audit current practice, consider the training needs of TAs, the preparedness of TAs and an explanation of what good practice should look like. Within the time restraints we could only look at the audit, questioning skills and some of the recommendations-but it does give TAs and SLT plenty of practical advice.

01 02

My third prong of our initiative was to observe/interview all of our TAs in action-this frightened some of them to death!  I didn’t use any form of grading [I don’t use grades for teacher observations!] and was keen to use the opportunity as a developmental idea, much as I do with the teaching staff.  There is no link to appraisal or competency or any of the issues that they worried about initially!  There is, however, a useful link to evaluating impact for LA funding and pupil premium, although I had thought of the idea before this became an obvious need and crucial requirement to sustain vital funding from the LA.[another inset session supported training needs for showing evidence of statemented student needs being successfully met]  I adapted an example from the original New Year’s Every Child Up-date case study and arranged my dates with destiny! I modelled some possible answers to support their thinking, as you can see here;

Teaching Assistant:  
Teacher and subject:  
Barriers to learning and progress:
Could be physical, medical (Asperger’s, dyslexia etc.) behavioural (settles slowly, has trouble listening to instructions, poor organisation skills or concentration levels, lacks social skills, unable to work independently etc.) or to do with learning in itself (has difficulties with handwriting, group-work, self-esteem, literacy, numeracy, etc.)
Strategies employed to address any barriers:
For example:Went over instructions after teacher had finished talking

Praised and encouraged to reinforce good behaviour

Supported reading and note taking (without doing it for them!), clarified explanations, read back their work to enable checking

Helped student check progress against learning objectives and kept student on task and focused – redirected to task when necessary

Asked open ended questions about their learning and encouraged them to do the same

Supervised group-work/practical activities

Liaised between student and teacher where necessary

Modelled and encouraged appropriate social skills for those with communication and social interaction difficulties

Helped students with emotional/behavioural difficulties refocus on their work and defused potential conflict

How successful were you? Tell me how you know progress was made!
Could be the penny dropping, a target met, feedback achieved, a learning barrier successfully removed, a thank you, a smile, a previous difficult skill conquered and so on.
How would you like to see this student’s learning develop this year? How can you help them achieve their next stages?
You can see the big picture of learning with your student (in this lesson), you know the IEP, you know the end of-year target, you know the specific barriers to learning, you know how much progress has been made so far – where do they need to go to next? It might be easier to think in terms of 1) their specific learning needs and 2) the specific skills needed in this subject. What can you do next to help?  Do you need to talk again to the teacher, especially about the subject skills?  Do you need to talk with other assistants about similar students for some ideas? Have you come up with your own ideas and want to give them a go (but aren’t so sure how to go about it!)?
How can we help you develop your role so that you know you are making the best personal contribution that you can in supporting your students?
Our students are the most important people in our school – but adults matter too! Do you feel happy, valued and able to contribute as well as you want to? Do you seek development or training? Do you have your own barriers to learning and developing? Tell us!

We are aware of gaps in training, mainly skills associated with our primary colleagues, that we lack such as spelling and reading strategies [what is phonics!] and we need to talk again to both teachers and TAs to ensure better communication. The learning conversations are beginning and we are as hopeful as we can be that our TAs will continue to provide invaluable support to the learning needs of our students. Their feedback, 1 to 1 pro-active intervention supported by focused CPD and targeted, discussed deployment is a key component in sustaining great learning and teaching at MCHS.

In part 2, I will share our work with helping the TAs to look in more detail at the impact of their support in terms of using data and although Ofsted have recently commented on this in their reports, as they did last year with the use of TAs, we do what is best for our students and Ofsted must have copied us not the other way round! Mr Wilshaw owes me a pint or two!







Inspirational students and co-educators

Mums and dads will recognise those moments when your child either makes you want to cry with frustration or cry with joy and pride. Our students make us feel exactly the same and I was totally overwhelmed this morning when I was invited into a year 10 class with some year 7 guests and Mrs Jordan, our SENCO. Speaking was one of our year 11 young ladies who told her own story of her experiences with dyslexia and how she has tried to overcome her learning difficulties, displaying an amazing clarity of thought, resilient positive mind-set and tremendous drive and determination to succeed. She spoke without notes and conducted a question and answer session where students openly talked about their own feelings and frustrations and her empathy and care shone through to enable a most moving and honest discussion. I knew that I had to speak to thank her, but I was struggling to compose myself-it was a priceless moment and a salient reminder that a school should always be judged by the quality of the young people that it sends into the world and not just by Ofsted inspections and examination results. I mentioned on the bulletin, this week, the sense of pride that we all felt after our Open Evening and the magnificent way in which our students conducted themselves. Sometimes we forget the core purpose of education and schools and become obsessed with pleasing and satisfying inspection requirements and politicians who will be gone tomorrow. I won’t forget the awe and humility that I felt this morning for a long time.

Staff have many ways of sharing ideas [as you will have seen in previous blogs] one of which is a weekly take on the Chuckle Brothers, “To me, to you” where teachers, TAs and mentors share their best moments of student learning, and much more. They are quite anxious to ensure that their information is meaningful and interesting for everyone else to read and the non-teachers worry that perhaps what they have to say is of less value than a teacher. We have more assistants than any other school in Sefton and they make a really valuable contribution to the learning here-being modest, of course, means that they don’t always realise it! I was interested to hear Vic Goddard speak yesterday at a conference [the Head from ‘Educating Essex’] and he mentioned that he called his teaching assistants, co-educators. I think that this is perhaps a better description of our support staff and do believe that EVERYBODY on our staff has a responsibility for, and should be valued for, their contribution to student learning. Whilst our teachers often comment on class achievement our TAs and mentors can point to individual personalised success that have made a huge difference to the learning and, often life chances, of some of our individual students. Let me share a few of their shared moments sent “to me, to you” [they are all from different colleagues and some are in short hand or bullet points]

How did you make it happen?

The students have over the last three weeks been seated at a table that I have in the classroom. They know it is for encouragement to produce better quality written work than they are currently producing. Each week they have taken it in turns to sit on ‘my table’. Surprisingly they don’t mind! I then have the opportunity to encourage progress in their writing by explaining in more detail and trying to help them expand on their answers. I feel as I did not know the students, with the in class support it has helped them to accept me, they understand I have some knowledge of the subject, which Lisa explains ‘I have a GCSE and I have worked in English a long time!’ I discuss the work with them not at them or to them.

What measureable impact did it have on the learning?

This week they have all produced homework and not just a few lines but a full page! One student in particular who did only attempt the date and title has produced some amazing work in the lesson, producing paragraphs instead of a few sentences. The same applies for the others too.

Your best student learning moment [s]/penny dropping moments of the term so far…Student A

Left last year and achieved good enough G.C.S.E. grades to study A levels this year and be on his way to achieving his aspirational target of being a marine biologist. I met him in year 8 when he was in set 5 for the core subjects and had a diagnosis of dyslexia.

How did you make it happen?

Student A
We sat down and worked backwards from his dream job, working out what was required along the journey. He needed to be in set 1 or 2 to study for the requisite G.C.S.E.s and needed extra English support, which Claire Broomfield provided and he studied G.C.S.E. papers in his own time. Revision timetables and timetable for extra-curricular activities were planned with him.

I met with his mum who was worried that he was taking on too much and reassured her that the creativity and physical extra stuff were the things that motivated him and his learning, as well as the academic work that he was studying hard at.

Which new ideas have you been trying out?

At the moment I am in the process of planning for The Listening Programme, an intervention I have used before, benefitting students especially those with ASD at the start of Yr.7, and others too.

As these students get more tired than others do often because of their sensory issues, I plan to use TLP in the afternoon to allow them to rest and recharge their batteries. Other incidental benefits from the programme are; forming friendship groups, getting to know staff, having a time that is not mentally taxing, but instead having time to do creative activities either with clay or constructing models.

Social Communication sessions have been very useful in teaching the skills needed for life. It is difficult sometimes with time constraints within a mainstream high school, to withdraw students from lessons to do individual sessions to support students. Staff have been very supportive, but do need the students in lessons so they do not miss out on vital information.

I am especially pleased with the debate group for Yr. 9 and Yr.10. This was initiated with students in mind who have very set ideas about certain topics, and as with most ASD students are inflexible in their thinking. It is so good for us to have flexibility to create individual interventions that can also impact positively on other students.

This is how it works; the students think about the topics they want to discuss, and the room is set to emulate the BBC’s “Question Time.” Students can volunteer to chair the debate, a topic is discussed in “for “ and “against” sections, and after a period of time set by the “chair” the students swap over to debate the topic from the opposite angle; this challenges their often concrete opinions of an issue and helps them to see from a different perspective. The students who have been involved have progressed in confidence, learning to listen to others, taking turns and respecting other’s opinions.

How did you make it happen? [ a student in need of support]

• Meeting weekly and sometimes daily with the student
• Speaking to Mum almost daily
• Facilitating meetings between student and teacher to remove anxieties
• Working closely with TA
• Introducing a diary for thoughts and feelings then using this as a starting point for discussion
• Keeping teaching staff informed of how best to support student
• A successful referral to CAMHS (children and adult mental health service)
• Taking advice and guidance from CAMHS
• Meeting with PE staff to discuss calorie intake/exercising

How did you make it happen?

I make time for this student with weekly appointments and an open door to drop in.
I’m in contact with mum when needed.
Enable the student to seek support in the classroom from her teaching staff.
Referral to counselling

Which new ideas have you been trying out?

• For student to manage and understand his own time management when carrying out class work and social situations using my watch or classroom clock to calculate different concepts of time in all situations.
• Giving the student independence by having a watch himself, to time an experiment so that it’s completed within time restraints.
• Giving the student lots of praise and encouragement to build self-esteem.
• Reassuring the student of the great progress he is starting to make in year 11.
• Good communication between the student and myself. Letting me know when he has a problem or isn’t happy with something by giving me a sign e.g. putting his pen down.
• For me to continue observing student and implementing the appropriate strategies when needed.

Our teachers are great BUT behind every great teacher is a network of support that may seem invisible to many outside of school but to our students, teachers and parents it is a vital life-line helping our students to succeed in their learning