“The Welsh Government has committed to encourage more school support staff in Wales to develop their skills and become Higher Level teaching assistants.”Our particular part of a recent Welsh Government and Consortia led project was to “Consider what activities and actions would support Consortia to raise awareness and applications for HLTA places”. This work also considered how we are able to support staff in gaining the level 2 qualifications necessary to undertake HLTA.
We felt an ideal starting point would be to meet with LSAs from across the Local Authorities and deliver a series of workshops. In this way we were able to both establish a baseline of the existing awareness of LSAs in schools whilst also being able to share our experiences and signpost support. A huge thank you to Ysgol Y Ddraig, Thornhill, Tondu and Heolgerrig primary schools, who all supported our project and hosted a workshop.
Part of the workshops included of an introduction to the HLTA qualification process. Interestingly enough, many support staff were wholly unaware of the process. Further work needs to be undertaken to explore how information regarding training and professional development opportunities is shared with the relevant staff and how can we develop a more effective conduit. A common discussion theme across the schools and one such solution is the potential of establishing an LSA champion in each of our schools, as a point of contact and as a representative in possible LSA cluster forums. This would allow us to establish a network of communication amongst LSAs enabling sharing of best practice, providing a directory of skills with opportunities for staff to visit and share their expertise with other schools; thus providing an additional tier to school to school working and the self improving school system.
Under the five areas of the HLTA standards of which there are 36 in total. We asked staff to write down the facets of their role. A reflective exercise for all involved with the realisation through their role within schools how they were already meeting the professional standards.
A walk through the actual process followed. What it will look like to them in terms of the tasks and the groups of learners that they work with on a daily basis. Higher Level Teaching Assistants work with a variety of learners on a 1:1 basis, small groups and whole classes leading the learning. They need to be able to demonstrate that they are able to meet the standards through their work across the curriculum or their specialist areas in particular settings. There was a high degree of concern and support needed around one particular sticking point, that being Standard 11: Having achieved level 2 (or above) of the National Qualifications Framework in English or Welsh (first language). On briefing day 1 the candidate will need to produce their certificates. During the workshops we were able to provide information both signposting staff to qualification providers and organisations where they could re-acquire lost qualification certificates.
An opportunity for further training available was offered for support staff via the ASSURE programme. A training programme devised by Central South. The programme focusing on: Behaviour, Pupil Engagement, AFL and Coaching Conversations.
‘What’s in it for me?’ was a common theme across all the venues with a large number of those present. We were able to share that in terms of CPD, gaining the HLTA award it is an opportunity for LSAs to gain status, have the legitimised recognition they deserve for the incredible role they undertake in our schools. It is a structured and consistent strategy to support the growing professionalism of the role of LSAs, a means of celebrating achievement and delivering much needed aspiration to the role.