TAs and LSAs are the most undervalued people in education.

There are many injustices in life, as my Facebook feed reminds me every morning. There are injustices I never even thought of before I had Facebook, and they are ranged upon a sliding scale which goes from "Well, yes but..." to "That is the most outrageous thing I ever heard!"


Up near the outrageous end is the appalling lack of recognition which our lords and masters pay to the essential contribution which our TAs and LSAs make to the life of a school, the students and the teachers. If someone were to put me in charge (and frankly, it baffles me every day that they haven't... (that's a joke btw)) I would start off by taking a long hard look at the teaching support staff in our schools and turn my mind to how to retain, reward and inspire these vital members of any school community.


There is not nearly enough understanding among teachers in many schools of the extraordinary benefits of having these staff in their classrooms. I would argue that

but means that too often we lose a critical resource from our classrooms when these colleagues, fed up with low pay and high responsibility, sometimes grindingly hard, leave to take up some better-paid work.


Committed and conscientious colleagues work with our most challenging students, are required to do a job which is mentally and emotionally draining, are paid a pittance and don't see any chance for professional development which might indicate that they are valued, and so they leave.


The positive effect that these professionals have on the young people to whom they dedicate so much of their energy is wildly underestimated, and the negative impact of their departure can be catastrophic. We classroom teachers might be the subject specialists, and in possession of broad, and sometimes acute, classroom management skills. But the LSAs/TAs are the experts in the children, and their knowledge is vital to success in a classroom containing one, two or many challenging or challenged young people.


Often you will work in a particular class with a particular member of support staff. The nature of school life being what it is, you may not have much chance to plan with the LSA until the moment they walk into the door with the child, at which point you show them the book, what you're going to cover and what your priority is. Not enough time to talk about how best to enable the young person to engage with your material, to learn about the traumas or disappointments for THAT child on THAT day.


Finding time at the beginning of a school year to talk to LSAs and TAs about the students they know well and coming up with a plan to merge your skill-sets for the benefit of that child can save you a lot of time, aggravation and disruption in classroom if it helps you to avoid confrontations and/or upsets which will derail your lesson not just for that one child but for the whole class. In addition you can plan together how the TA or LSA's time can be best used to help you and the students in their care, which will make their job much more rewarding. A few minutes per child should do it, and it is so worthwhile.

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