Riverside Primary Academy
Case Study: Teaching Assistants.
At Riverside Primary Academy, Gateshead, successful pupil progress with children who attract Pupil Premium is due to a strategic decision in which the Leadership Team and the Teaching Assistants made a concerted attempt to tackle pupil progress. It was recognised from the outset that we had support staff with good self- motivation and the potential to enhance the work of the teacher. We invested both finance and time to effective training, which supported pupils’ learning within the classroom.
As in all primary schools, teaching staff are responsible for the planning and development of a pupil’s learning journey. However, it was quite obvious that the Teaching Assistants had much to offer in their role of supporting and underpinning the learning that was taking place in classrooms.
Three strategic decisions were made. Firstly, that, as Teaching Assistants were appointed, they would be used primarily in the mornings to support the teaching staff within the core subjects, (except for those Teaching Assistants in the Foundation Stage who were needed all day to meet statutory adult to pupil ratios). Secondly, the Teaching Assistants would always work with the ‘booster’ group of children – not the lowest ability children; those children would be supported by learning support staff. Finally, we decided to enhance the understanding of the Teaching Assistants, to enable them to see their role within the complex jigsaw of events that was required to provide our pupils with the skills to do well academically, emotionally and socially.
It was decided that some of our pupil premium would be used to release the Deputy Headteacher from her teaching role. She would prioritise 45 minutes every week to providing quality training for our Teaching Assistants. A schedule of training was drawn up, focussing primarily on areas with which they themselves felt they required assistance. Aspects of learning were explored, including, understanding the teacher’s planning, learning how teachers assess pupil progress on a day to day basis and how their partner teacher would subsequently plan for the next steps of learning, how teachers would use their class tracking data to monitor summative assessment and also how to use it to identify groups of children who were flourishing or those who were moving on slowly. Teaching Assistants were shown how all of the ‘cogs in the machinery’ worked together to create an effective outcome. Teaching Assistants were encouraged to informally visit each other’s classrooms and learn from each other; sharing good practice, and then, in turn, refining and adding to their priorities for future training.
As training sessions took place, the staff became more self assured and confident that their own practice was good. Confidence bred more confidence, and before long, they suggested that they would like to replicate what our teaching staff were doing at that time, and set up coaching triads. They organised themselves into groups of three, decided on a focus, checked with the Deputy Headteacher that the focus was going to be effective in moving the school forward, then, set off to do their own sharing of good practice. One success story led to more success. As they reported back to the Deputy Headteacher with their discoveries, they refined what they wanted to do next, and included interviewing pupils and sampling groups of children, including those with free school meals. The interest and enjoyment they shared together strengthened their team.
As the academic year moved on, the time came around for pupil progress meetings between the staff for each class, the Headteacher and the Deputy Headteacher. It was quickly realised that our Teaching Assistants now held a deep knowledge about the progress and the learning needs of our children. It was, therefore, impossible to have an effective pupil progress meeting without our key staff – the Teaching Assistants had to be significant stakeholders in the pupil progress meetings every time we held them. It is true to say that when we first held these meetings with our Teaching Assistants present they were probably overwhelmed by the depth of detail that was presented, as each group in turn was discussed in detail, child by child. But by the second time, there was no holding them back. The information they held on each and every child was invaluable to build up the whole picture.
It has been two years now since the Teaching Assistants began their first training sessions. This year their quest continues, as they have requested further training, with a focus on developing their own personal ICT skills. As a school we are very happy to provide this.
We look forward to providing our staff with skills that will enhance them as individuals and we realise that, ultimately, it can not fail to help our children learn more effectively.