National occupational standards (NOS) assert good practice for support staff, providing a concrete framework detailing how the roles and responsibilities of support staff in schools can be undertaken in a competent manner. Furthermore, NOS describe the knowledge and understanding that is required in order to be competent in a support role. In addition, the NOS are widely used in relation to training and professional development, described by the TDA as ‘supporting the learning process in schools. (NAPTA: 2009) NOS provide a valuable resource to schools that use them to assist in the creation of job descriptions and roles and responsibilities, as well as underpinning training, progression and supporting development needs of staff. The teaching assistant role is at the centre of the national occupational standards for supporting teaching and learning, with the standards reflecting the broader scope of responsibilities that the role now entails.
Many standards are relevant to my job role with tasks beyond the level one job description, such as, working with children who have special educational needs, implementing IEP’S and Behaviour plans being undertaken. Despite the task ‘Monitor pupil’s responses to learning activities and accurately record achievement/progress as directed [and] Provide detailed and regular feedback to teachers on pupils achievement, progress, problems etc. ’ (Veronica, W :2003) being on a level 2/3 job description it is regularly undertaken by many level 1 teaching assistants.
The NOS STL9 Observe and report on pupil performance which relates to this task, details how ‘working under the direction of the teacher … observations of pupils to gather evidence of their knowledge, understanding and skills upon which the teacher makes judgements about their stage of development [is carried out]. ’ (Tda: 2010) Although in my role as a teaching assistant I feel capable of completing such as task, I am frequently undertaking work not reflected by both job description and pay received.
According to the regulations made under S133 of the Education Act 2002, then amended in 2007 ‘a job description including details of the ‘specified work’ that the member of support staff is expected to do … tak[ing] account of the individual’s experience, training and qualifications [should be created]. ’ (DCSF: 2007) In addition, reference is also made by the DCSF (2007) specifying that if staff wish to take on increased roles and responsibilities then this should be done with the necessary training and appropriate pay and grading.
Further NOS that relate to my role include STL7 and STL8. Both those standards cover the use of ICT within schools. STL7 ensures that appropriate knowledge is held in order to ensure safe and effective set up and use of ICT resources, in addition to supporting pupils to use equipment. Whilst STL8 is about being involved in the teachers plans for using the ICT equipment, supporting and promoting the pupils learning, and evaluating the ICT lesson in relation to the pupils learning.
My role enables me to demonstrate both these STLs on a regular basis, occasions occur in specific ICT lessons alongside HLTA’s who deliver these, the use of the interactive whiteboard daily, the use of ICT in different curriculum areas for example topic work, and ICT clubs. Both STL7 and STL8 are NOS that are supported extensively by the school I am employed. This is as the skills it develops are seen as an essential requirement for all support staff.
Opportunities are regular given for staff to increase knowledge base in this area, with a variety of courses on offer, such as interactive whiteboard training. Training for support staff is seen as important with the selective NOS being utilized in performance management reviews to acknowledge and identify training needs for individuals. NOS STL39, 40 and 41 contend with the effective support of those children with learning difficulties, with each STL concentrating on the variety of support needed for differing difficulties.
STL39 details how to provide support competently for those pupils with speech and language delays, including those children with dyslexia. Whilst STL40 still requires effective support for pupils with learning difficulties it focuses more on children who have a combination of both learning difficulties and behaviour difficulties which compound their additional needs. STL41 goes further to develop skills needed to effectively support pupils with behaviour, emotional and social development needs. Working currently in a low ability class many children need the support as described in the above NOS.
The majority of the class display immature behaviour with some children being withdrawn and isolated socially. One individual child displays school phobic reactions that need to be handled sensitively. Several children present challenging behaviours which requires effective behaviour management strategies. These pupils have many more additional needs than a higher ability class. The school use the NOS along with whole school targets in performance management reviews annually, identifying both skills and training requirements for all TAs.
This information is used in the decision of what TAs to allocate to specific classes, ensuring that the low ability classes are supported by TAs that demonstrate competence in specific areas such as SEN. The expected standard of work benchmarked by the NOS for support staff, along with the workforce reform in 2003 has meant the teaching assistant role, despite in some cases still being accorded low status is becoming an increasing professional job that requires training and qualifications with this being recognised in improved pay and conditions.
Studies, undertaken by Dr Lowe of Staffordshire University compound this stating ‘There must be remuneration for the work done, clearly defined roles and robust employment contacts’ (Lowe: 2010) With many support staff competently working at many of the required standards set by the NOS they can be seen as an effective way to benchmark the expected level of support that is needed in schools.
Although, this is dependent on the school acknowledging the importance of these standards, providing training opportunities and encouraging professional development where necessary. Dr Lowe (2010) affirms that whilst there is training opportunities and university links available, remuneration needs to match these qualifications if the role of the teaching assistant is going to be a profession.
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