Displays Level 2 STLS – Short Course

A Short Displays Course to Support Level 2 STLS?

Displays Level 2 STLS - Short Course
Displays Level 2 STLS – Short Course – an interesting addition?

Just been looking again at running a 3 day on-line intensive course about the displays optional unit for UK Teaching Assistants doing Level 2 STLS (Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools).

  • We would take 3 days to cover the knowledge base.
  • I would work with them to make sure they understand exactly what evidence they need to gather for their assessor.
  • Learners would then have a workbook to complete which would provide evidence for their portfolio.

Costs are yet to be worked out but using my own site lets me keep them quite reasonable. Teaching assistants (and teachers!) mostly fund themselves to take my courses so it needs to be inexpensive.

I decided against a self-study version due to upcoming changes in the VAT position with regards to digital sales. (Basically all digital books and any ‘automatically delivered’ digital courses will be subject to VAT from January. Boo Hiss!)

I’m really not sure though. I’ve been happy avoiding the NVQ style evidence box ticking with the Basic and Advanced courses. The Basic course produces people with a better understanding of display basics than the performance criteria of the STLS standards ever would. However there is a demand for the STLS course.

Still pondering this – what do people think?


Do I want to teach NVQ? Teetering on the edge…

on the edge

(cc image by The Majestic Fool)

I’ve got a big dilemma at the moment. Do I stay with what I’m doing or leap off the edge?

I’ve just spent a year teaching NCFE2 to a fine group of teaching assistants. I’ve built up lots of resources and lesson plans and I’d actually started to feel that I might just know what I’m doing.

Then whoosh, everything changes, again. The place I work isn’t offering NCFE2 next year, only NVQ 2 because of changes in funding. They propose that I just switch to that instead but NVQ2 is a very different proposition:

  1. Ideally meant for those already employed, it is less easy for people on voluntary placements. Yet it is mostly volunteers that have already signed up for the course.
  2. It involves a much higher commitment to placement observations than NCFE
  3. No scope for simulations – everything has to happen in school, no role plays.
  4. Much more involvement from placement schools and teachers. Hard to get for volunteers rather than staff members.
  5. The dreaded grids need to be tracked, collated and generally understood by all concerned.
  6. It’s just been revised and the text books are now all out of date.
  7. I haven’t a clue how to organise the materials or sessions so I’d have to start again from scratch with my planning.

Add to this a higher tutor/ student ratio and I’m left wondering if this is going to be more trouble than it is worth.

All of this doesn’t even begin to address the other issues I have with teaching at the moment.

I have been totally unable to find any sort of online network of UK based peers interested in adult education at pre-degree level. No forums, bloggers, twitterers, ning groups, nix. So no personal learning network of peers again this year. (Nothing wrong with all my great primary school network but a few peers would be nice)

The paperwork is daunting, hard to keep on top of and NVQ has even more of it.

I hated the Preparing to Teach in the Life Long Learning Sector course with a vengeance. It was a real pain and had me tearing my hair out. Teaching NVQ would mean embarking on yet another course, this time for assessors of NVQs.

On the plus side I mostly enjoyed the actual teaching sessions, the interactions, watching people grow in confidence and competence. I quite enjoyed the school visits and learning to navigate my way round unfamiliar parts of London.

Not teaching next year feels very high risk. It means I’m totally dependant on my writing and my online activities to provide me with an income. The return might be that with more energy and input from me my other stuff really takes off.

Shall I jump and hope that I can fly?

(cc image by SFTC/Gill)

Teaching assistants or cut price teachers?

Unison finally noticed that teaching assistants are being used as cheap teachers:

Christine McAnea, of Unison, said the practice was “endemic” as it cost less to use support staff to cover teacher absence than to buy supply teachers.

England schools Minister Jim Knight said teaching assistants eased the burden on teachers, but should not lead classes “for more than a short period”

It costs about £150 a day to employ a supply teacher, but about £50 to pay support staff.

Rosemary Plummer, a Unison representative, said in the last few months more than 40 teaching assistants from a small area of London had told her they felt they were being asked to do more than they were qualified for.

“They’re delivering maths, they’re delivering literacy and marking work – that’s a teacher’s job… they’re being used as cut-price teachers,” she said.

You don’t say? Can you believe they’ve only just noticed? I don’t understand why is the NUT not screaming about this too, it is teachers they are replacing after all. Maybe supply and part time cover teachers don’t matter either.

Many teaching assistants are extremely competent but they are not teachers. I know TAs in primary who are doing all their own planning, target setting, and marking for the teachers whose PPA time they cover. For this they are paid only for the hours they actually teach, (no planning time), at Level 3 – not even HLTA rates, even though they are qualified to that level. They also have the joy of teaching with no support, which never happens to the normal teacher in that class.


Should Teaching Assistants Support the Teachers’ Strike?

Unison gives TAs strike advice

Unison has warned UK teaching assistants that they could be disciplined and lose pay if they refuse to turn up for work on Thursday. Up to 7,800 schools will be disrupted with as many as 1 in 3 schools completely closed in some areas.

Unison has told its members that legally they should work as usual on Thursday if the teachers’ strike goes ahead. They should just not do any work normally done by teachers. It’s not really clear if this includes covering classes that the TAs might cover normally for PPA time. Those classes are, at least in theory, supervised by teachers so it’s definitely a grey area.

Unison suggests TAs can show support by attending meetings outside their working hours.

For TAs in schools that are expected to shut fully on Thursday, it is possible that they will lose pay or be expected to put in the hours at another time. In some areas schools will only be partially closed with some staff in but no pupils. TAs will be expected to turn up to school and get on with other duties. I can see a lot of resource areas getting that much needed clean up no one ever has time to do!

People will have to check the position in their particular school. Don’t just stay home because the school is closed, check with your local union rep. There shouldn’t be any picket lines as the NUT has asked members to attend meetings instead. If you turn up and there is a teachers’ picket line I don’t envy you. Personally I couldn’t cross one and then look those people in the eye over tea break the next day. Having said that I don’t remember a huge amount of solidarity from teachers the last time TAs took strike action….

Meanwhile, on Twitter, lots of teachers are planning to spend the day catching up with paper work and planning lessons! Sheesh – you are meant to be on strike guys! Y’know, going to meetings etc, not working! Oh and by the way, that probably includes not edublogging, twittering about work to your personal learning network, finding cool new resources to play with and all those informal learning activities you don’t get paid for anyway! 🙂

Delightful Learning – it’s what your brain needs

Interesting article on brain based learning by a neurologist who is also an educator:

Classroom experiences that are free of intimidation may help information pass through the amygdalas affective filter. In addition, when classroom activities are pleasurable, the brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that stimulates the memory centers and promotes the release of acetylcholinem, which increases focused attention.

The acronym RAD can remind educators of three important neuroscience concepts to consider when preparing lessons:

  • Novelty promotes information transmission through the Reticular activating system.
  • Stress-free classrooms propel data through the Amygdalas affective filter.
  • Pleasurable associations linked with learning are more likely to release more Dopamine.

There are no neuroimaging or brain wave analysis data that demonstrate a negative effect of joy and exuberance in classrooms, yet some schools have unspoken mandates against these valuable components of the classroom experience. Now that hard science proves the negative effects of stress and anxiety, teachers can more confidently promote enthusiasm in their classrooms.

Let’s hear it for classrooms full of novelty, excitement and delight then 🙂 She even has some quite useful suggestions for how to achieve them. Good stuff 🙂

All I have to do is remember that adults need this sort of consideration too!

Is it OK to say “I’m useless at maths” in the UK?

“Every primary school should have a maths specialist and parents should have a less negative attitude to the subject”

According to the BBC an interim report by Sir Peter Williams says the UK is one of the few developed nations where it is acceptable to say you are “useless at maths”.

Such attitudes will not help children see maths as an essential and rewarding part of their daily lives,

The study suggests the amount of in-service maths training primary teachers receive is inadequate. Although most (I’d assumed it would be all by now) teachers do have the basic requirement in maths for teacher training – GCSE maths at C or above.

All HLTAs and many TAs also have to have maths GCSE in order to even be considered for a job.
The report had a go at parents as well. It says they needed to have a “can-do” attitude to maths and to learn the modern techniques their children were using to help them and give them a love of maths.

So what do we get from this? More initiatives and funding for family learning perhaps? Parents expected to not only support the children whilst they do homework but also to make time themselves to learn the techniques schools are using to teach maths? I’ve been involved in family learning in school before and they are great for those who do get involved. The trouble is it’s never the parents you really need to reach who turn up to them.

One of the biggest contrast I’m seeing at the moment though is between these attitudes and those of some of my Teaching Assistant students. Mostly educated in non-European countries they express a deep love of Maths and a high level of confidence in their own abilities. They have exactly the ‘can- do’ attitude the report wants to promote, understand that maths is vital to children’s learning and actually look forward to numeracy lessons. As far as I can see the main thing they have in common is that they all did the International Baccalaureate.

Teaching Assistants ICT Training

I’m busy working out what to include in a one day ICT workshop for trainee primary school teaching assistants. I’ve got an ICT suite booked from 10 till 3 and I’m wondering what people think the TAs really need to know. I’ve had a few thoughts of my own and some great input from Andy. Last night I found that Anthony was thinking about something similar. He’s planning some longer training for TAs and has narrowed it down to 4 topics:

Redbridge Primary ICT Consultant: TA Training
* Using relevant software to support a child with special needs
* Training other TAs to create banners for display
* Researching websites for teachers and TAs to use in their lesson
* Using the IWB to teach

I agree with these and have added them to my list. I also think he’s hit on a couple of really important points but maybe not spelled them out. Teach one TA in a school how to do something really useful on the computer and it tends to spread 🙂 without the need for formal training. Teaching assistants tend to be a resourceful lot and if something is actually useful it spreads virally through the school.

Of course I was interested that he’d picked out making banner titles for classroom displays. This is something I’ve banged on about for ages. Hand cutting lettering for displays is a hugely wasteful use of teaching assistants’ time. Often schools don’t even have die cutters for the letters so that means using wooden templates, drawing them out and then cutting by hand. If TAs, and so by implication teachers, learn how easy it is to do banner titles, and how good they can look, maybe this can change.

Other areas I’ve thought about:

  • File saving and sharing – an introduction. Basic, but many people, including teachers, have no concept of the difference between files and folders, don’t understand about saving versions, or even sensible naming of .docs
  • Calibrating white boards. This is a simple but really helpful classroom skill!
  • Supporting from the side – how not to do it for them!
  • Very basic troubleshooting. Things like checking knowing how to check the in control panel of the laptop when the sound doesn’t work. It’s often just defaulted to ‘mute’.

I think the best way to take this forward might be to use a wiki page so I’ve set up a Teaching Assistants ICT Training page on usefulwiki.

If anyone wants to join in it is easy to edit. Just set yourself up a user name and away you go 🙂

So what do you think teaching assistants need to know about using and supporting with ICT? Either add your thoughts to the wiki or leave a comment here.