Aim: To develop quality first teaching by ensuring that appropriate training of both teachers and Classroom Learning Assistants (CLAs) is delivered to impact positively on all pupils’ progress. To re-establish the culture that the teacher is responsible for all pupil progress within their class, and to see CLAs as a resource that is deployable in any way the teacher feels will enhance the learning of the class and the pupils within it.
Background: Research by both the Sutton Trust and the Institute of Education had shown that the use of Teaching Assistants as a buddy to one or more pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN) issues is at best neutral in its impact on pupil progress.
Year 1: A training programme was implemented for CLAs covering the school’s “excellent lesson” approach, which highlights the importance of basic literacy and numeracy interventions, differentiation strategies and behaviour management approaches. Emphasis was placed on joint planning approaches between teachers and CLAs.
Year 2: A major restructure of the SEN department was completed, with new CLAs on permanent full-time contracts that provided allotted time for specialist training, e.g. supporting pupils with particular Special Educational Needs or those identified as able, gifted or talented. CLAs became part of the ongoing training provision of the school, taking part in professional activity days/evenings and at teaching and learning forums.
Year 3: A lesson observation pro-forma was redeveloped to highlight the importance of deploying CLAs effectively. This allowed the quality of support and the quality of teaching and learning to be assessed. Each pro-forma had a focus on quality first teaching and they acted as a cross check on the effectiveness of learning provision.
Evidence: CLA questionnaires, pupil voice, parental survey, exam results.
Impact: Both parents and pupils confirmed that the quality of teaching had improved; teachers and CLAs showed improved understanding of their respective roles and pupils of all abilities were supported by CLAs. The Department for Learning Support review found that, “in all cases, pupils were actively engaged in the tasks that had been set by the classroom teacher. The support offered by the CLAs helped to keep the pupils on task”. Examination performance of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) issues improved. In 2016, all pupils in receipt of special needs support or with an educational, health and care (EHC) plan achieved a minimum of 5 GCSE passes, with many gaining a greater number of passes and several achieving 5 A*-C including English and Maths. This performance was the best ever achieved with SEND pupils at the school. The attainment 8 average score for all pupils in England was 49.34, for supported pupils at Bury CE High School it was 46.62 which compared favourably with the national figure. Pupils at Bury CE High School who have EHC plans attained an average of 28.30.
Reflections: It is important to be rigorous in not only delivering but evaluating the project as it progresses. Having the Head as the key lead to work with the SENCo and Deputy Head (Teaching and Learning), enabled the project to have the impetus to be seen through despite challenges.
Contact: Rev C Watson, firstname.lastname@example.org