Diary of an NQT: Working with teaching assistants

Written by: Diary of an NQT | Published:
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Our NQT diarist is drawing upon his previous experience as a teaching assistant to help his working relationships

An essential aspect of a teacher’s role is the effective deployment of support staff in lessons. My new school has an excellent in-class support system. This includes teaching assistants who support students with additional learning needs, as well as teaching assistants who work in the school’s specialist autism provision.

The autism provision is one of only two in the local education authority, and its existence means that our school has a higher number of students with ASD than other schools in the area.

Prior to becoming assistant inclusion manager (my role prior to my ITT), I worked as a teaching assistant for an academic year. This gave me invaluable insight into how different practitioners deploy support staff in their lessons.

Now that I am a classroom teacher, I am able to use my own experience as a teaching assistant to inform how I utilise my colleagues’ skills to support our students.

When working as a teaching assistant, I worked with teachers who valued my input into their lessons and would involve me as much as possible in the learning process.

However, I also experienced lessons where I felt like a spare part; it quickly became clear which colleagues valued the input of support staff and which ones saw us as an inconvenience.

I have made a concerted effort to get to know the teaching assistants who support my lessons. They are diverse in terms of age and experience; some have been in the job for many years, while others are in their early 20s and are just starting their career in education. They all share an unwavering dedication to the students they are assigned to help, and have proven to be unfailingly supportive of me in my first weeks at the school.

These professionals know the school better than many teaching staff, as they see so many different departments at work. They may also have been working with the same child all day, and may have important information regarding the student’s mood that may not be immediately obvious to the teacher.

Their advice on issues such as differentiation and behaviour management is always useful, and I would encourage future NQTs to make the most of this. Likewise, I ensure that the support staff I work with feel confident getting involved in my lessons, communicating with them prior to, during and after each class.

Many of the younger teaching assistants have aspirations to either go into teaching or to progress as a member of support staff. For instance, a young teaching assistant who has been supporting my classes recently applied for an internal promotion for a non-teaching head of year role. He sought my advice and I provided him with an essay that I wrote during my ITT which focused on educational inclusion.

The teaching assistant used the theoretical practice in my essay to inform his interview and, although he was unsuccessful, he has recently been asked to join the school’s inclusion team, a new role that will allow him to develop professionally. I have offered to informally mentor this colleague as I see many parallels with my own journey from teaching assistant to classroom teacher.

Teaching assistants are a vital source of support and information for classroom teachers. Due to the two different types of teaching assistant that my school employs, it is not unusual to have two or three members of support staff in one lesson. I find their work to be crucial to ensuring the progress of my students, and I hope that my colleagues enjoy being in my lessons as much as I enjoy having them there.

  • Our NQT diarist this year is a teacher of history at a comprehensive school in the North of England.


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