Being a TA comes with its own set of challenges, that’s for sure. Not only do you need professional collaboration with your teacher and add value to the class environment (rather than replace the teaching for the weaker children), you also need to try and help the children you are carrying out interventions with transfer these skills back to the classroom!

Maisie’s story

How many times have you worked with a child 1-1 or in a small group and they get it: you see their progress, you evidence their progress, but back in class, it’s a different story? It can be really easy to slip in to overhelping a child when you are desperate for them to ‘prove’ what they can do. But sometimes this can mean that other staff are less aware of the child’s difficulties and how they can help.

Isn’t a child far more likely to be successful if everyone knows what the expectations for the child are? If everybody knows the skill the child is working on, and has had success with, then these expectations allow the child to demonstrate this. And this isn’t just about all members of staff knowing about a difficulty that a child has, it’s about them understanding the way the child works best and facilitating as many opportunities as possible for them to be successful.

Let me tell you about the lovely Maisie* – year 4, a reluctant speaker who struggled with her attention…

A simple blue laminated communication card, kept in the pocket of her cardigan, gave Maisie a little bit of extra support and confidence when she needed to ask for help. I had emailed all members of staff asking them to look out for Maisie ‘s blue card and, in class and on the playground, she began to grow confident in showing it to adults when she was unsure about something.

One email alone isn’t enough of course and when, blue card clutched in her little hand, Maisie was singled out in assembly, made to stand up and explain why she wasn’t listening, it was a sharp reminder that our school community had a way to go in achieving an environment that was truly inclusive for ALL of our pupils.

A whole school approach is essential and a TA has a real part to play in this. Working closely with your SENCo and the rest of the support staff goes without saying; but it’s not always easy to speak up with confidence around more qualified or experienced colleagues.

However, your suggestion might just make a difference to your pupil like Maisie, and so you need to voice it.

It may not be a reasonable expectation that every member of staff should remember every child’s individual need, but it must be a reasonable expectation that everyone understands why ‘speech, language and communication skills are so fundamental to a child’s development success and we/I-being, that the United Nations now regards the ability to communicate as a human right’.**

So, keep speaking up, keep reminding staff and supply teachers about your children with SLCN, keep trying different ways to help your pupils communicate and keep on making difference!

* Names have been changed for this article.

** The Ultimate Guide to SLCN, 2020, By Sophie Mustoe-Playfair and Louse Bingham.

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