The role of the co-educator


Integrating the co-educator into the drama classroom has given our NQT diarist some food for thought. Should they support those students who struggle, or should this be where the teacher focuses their efforts?

I have noticed in recent weeks as the staff number within our school increases, that I am beginning to see the introduction of a co-educator within some of my lessons – a new phenomenon to me and one which has thrown me some what.

Although my PGCE taught me of their importance within a classroom setting theoretically, performing arts within my placement schools rarely saw me having to practically use one, more asking another member of staff to “pretend” to be a co-educator within an observation so that I could meet the required standards to pass the course.

The few co-educators that I did encounter within my placements were targeted to a selected student in the class, usually an SEN student, which has meant that now that I have one at my disposal, I am needing to ask for help as to how to go about really making the most of their presence.

I teach one young boy who is heavily SEN, who even has a co-educator to assist him in the changing room, which always seems somewhat odd (however, he has been known to take 20 minutes to change in to his kit before now which certainly is a disruption).

I have had co-educators who haven’t stepped foot inside the studio, rather stood on the outside looking through the glass and writing up their notes, which has frustrated me – as if they have seen dance as a free lesson on their timetable. 

It made me recognise the need to plan for them, to give them a purpose for being in the room and the key words and movements that I was expecting to see – which got me thinking even further. 

Why is there a common ideal that the co-educator should be with the SEN students? Is this genuinely benefiting the progression of the lesson or simply teacher avoidance?

The theory that I am experimenting with at present is based on the principle that it is the teacher who has the thorough subject knowledge. In order to ensure every pupil in that class is making progress, it needs to be the teacher who is working alongside those who need further explanations and modelling – not the co-educator (who may well have two left feet assisting in a dance setting!). 

The gifted and talented students will take on board instructions first time and act on them, therefore as long as students are in ability-based groups (a whole other debate among performing arts teachers!), they will be able to progress at their own rate with like-minded students, providing a “weaker” group to occupy the majority of the teacher’s focus. 

The co-educator can therefore take on a behaviour role if required, or be given a list of the key terms to prompt the gifted and talented, or focus on the “grey area” students who are comfortably sitting in the middle of the class when it comes to attainment and need the extra push to be gaining the higher levels.

We are constantly encouraged to show progress in every child – I think, when given the support, this is the recipe to do so. Though I’m sure I’ll find out for definite after demonstrating this model within my next observation...

  • Our NQT diarist this year is a teacher of drama and dance at a school in Essex.


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