Our resident TA talks to HLTA, Catherine Coverdale, about how she became the Yorkshire TA Network Coordinator.

“We wanted TAs to meet colleagues face-to-face to network with each other, share their experiences and talk about their roles.”

How did you become a TA?

Six years ago, I was working in banking while studying part-time for my degree. I had always wanted to teach but taking the plunge into school was a little scary. An unexpected TA role came up at a local, small village school and, feeling brave one day, I applied! I got the job and have never looked back. Fast forward a couple of years and I now work in the same lovely school as an HLTA in Year 2 and in the Research School in my role as the Network Coordinator.

Our school is very fortunate. We have an amazingly supportive headteacher who is always keen for people to attend training. Because of this we don’t have a high level of turnover; once staff start working here, they generally don’t want to leave! Our school is like a family, we are all treated equally and have a great relationship with one another.

How did the idea of forming a TA network for Yorkshire schools first come about?

The need for a TA network was identified by the North Yorkshire Coast Research School and backed by the local Opportunity Area. I was appointed as the Network Coordinator at the start of September 2021.

What difficulties did you face when trying to set this up?

As the TA Network had been identified by the Research School, everyone was on-board with supporting me to develop the Network. Generally, the feedback from head teachers in other schools is positive as they too have recognised a gap in the support available for their TAs and have encouraged them to join the Network and attend training. I had not, however, anticipated just how fast things would progress and so I have had to learn (very quickly) on the job which at times is challenging. I really feel I am helping to make colleagues’ work-life easier and more fulfilled, which spurs me on.

Can you describe the process of setting up the Network?

Initial discussions identified the focus of the Network to be a ‘Greater Impact of TAs in School’. This then took two distinct strands, one which involved senior leaders and the EEF Guidance ‘The Effective use of TAs’, looking at how successful deployment means clarity and consistency for TAs and a more effective impact on the school and its pupils. In the second strand, we wanted the focus to be around how a happy and motivated TA, with good subject knowledge, could positively impact the school.

We then looked at what we could offer to help TAs feel valued and motivated. This included the development of a newsletter and a website for the Network providing information on conferences and training opportunities. I spent many hours contacting local schools to tell them about the Network and building a social media presence. I contacted many organisations, agencies, and colleagues to ask for support in providing training for our TAs and was lucky to receive lots of positive help from them.

Did you receive support from other TA networks?

The support of the founder of Suffolk TA Network, Abi Joachim, has been invaluable. Abi was kind enough to share the wins and woes of setting up a network, having gone through the process herself the previous year in Suffolk. This support has continued, and our networks have worked together on a TA development programme that is currently being piloted across the country.

How many members do you have?

We have 270 members, most are based in Yorkshire, but we do have some further afield. Numbers are rising every day.

What sort of events and opportunities have you offered your members?
As new TAs register, we gather information on the training they are interested in. Initially, we wanted our TAs to come together and meet colleagues face-to-face to network with each other, share their experiences and talk about their roles.

Subsequently, we have hosted 15 free training sessions including advice on SLCN, STEM science, SEMH, self-regulation and most recently a wellbeing development day. We already have several training opportunities planned for the next academic year and look forward to working with other organisations in the future.

What are your aspirations for the future?

I hope that the Network will continue to thrive and become a well-known and a trusted source of information and training across the county. My own long-term plan is to undertake my PGCE and teach as I adore being in the classroom with the children. I think that having such an in-depth understanding of the value of a TA, will stand me in very good stead to make a good class teacher!

What are you most proud of?

I feel very privileged to be fundamental in the development of the TA Network and be at the heart of everything it stands for. The role is away from the classroom and working with the children, and this sometimes takes me out of my comfort zone. Imposter syndrome is a regular occurrence for me and I’m proud that I manage to push it down and rise up to provide the best network for our TAs!

Yorkshire TA Network

Find out more about the Yorkshire TA Network at: www.yorkshiretanetwork.co.uk


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