Page 1

Issue 24 • Summer Term 1  2009

■■ Supporting■ adopted children ■■ Are school trips worth the bother? ■■ How to get a (new) TA job

Positive progress Taking a fresh look at children with ADHD


Would you like support to develop your career? Are you looking for a single source of information on roles, national occupational standards, qualification options and progression routes for support staff? The Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) can help you through all stages of your career − from introductory training to specialist development opportunities. For more information, visit www.tda.gov.uk/support

2  Learning Support  Summer Term 1 2009


From the editor

Testing times Call for paid time off for training

5

Survey shows half TAs experienced barriers when they wanted training

10

Out and about

Why careful planning is vital for school visits

Looking for a job?

Where you should start

16

Junk figures

Brighten your classroom with this craft project

Assessment for learning

Continuing our series on the new national occupational standards

Lost boys and girls

How TAs can help adopted children and their new parents

Helping orphans in Africa Former TA’s charity helps AIDS victims in Malawi Is it just tension, or something worse?

Accentuate the positive A fresh look at ADHD can change a child’s life

4–8 9 12 13

18

20

22

23

Pains in the neck

News Letters Children’s health Displays

14

Children’s books Resources Numeracy Playtime

24

26 28 29 31

Each spring, when the teachers’ unions have their annual conferences, education hits the headlines. Suddenly the media get a glimpse of what is happening in schools, from the inside. This year teachers and headteachers are expecting to join forces in a boycott of next year’s SATS tests. For heads to consider going against government policy en masse is a radical step and shows how seriously they feel about the damage the tests are doing to schools, and more important, to children’s primary education. Many heads also oppose the school league tables, based on SATS results, because they tell so little about the quality of what schools are doing. For example teaching assistants’ painstaking minuteby-minute work with the children who find school a struggle cannot be measured by SATS results. Kindness, patience, imagination, inspiration and encouragement are what matter to children and enable them to flourish. Of course it’s important to keep a careful eye on children’s progress, and to tailor lessons to each child’s understanding, as Anne Watkinson explains in this issue (page 18). But SATS have little to do with that process. And with a boycott in the pipeline it’s only a matter of the government finding a way to save some face before they are replaced, hopefully with something more useful.

Frances Rickford Editor Learning Support  Summer Term 1 2009  3


news

MPs urge slimmer curriculum Teachers have been de-skilled by the National Curriculum and National Strategies, say MPs. The cross-party House of Commons schools select committee wants a slimmed-down primary curriculum that leaves more room in the timetable for other learning. The MPs’ committee crossquestioned 32 expert witnesses including schools minister Jim Knight and Sir Jim Rose who is writing a

review of the primary curriculum for the government. They also took written evidence from 42 organisations. ”At times schooling has appeared more of a franchise operation dependent on a recipe handed down by government, rather than the exercise of professional expertise by teachers,” says the report. The MPs say Sir Jim Rose’s interim recommendations are unnecessarily

complex. They oppose his proposal that children should move into reception at four years old. “Due to their low practitioner-to-child ratios these settings cannot cater for the needs of very young children,” says the report. The schools select committee is one of 19 select committees in the House of Commons with the job of scrutinising the work of government departments.

More staff needed who understand migrant languages Migrant children need more classes in their new language and more staff who understand their mother tongue, say Euro MPs. The European Parliament’s Culture Committee is calling for extra funding for language courses for the growing number of migrant children and their parents across Europe. They say that children arriving in Europe are often poorly equipped to succeed because of poverty and disadvantage. ”If more efforts are not made to help migrant children do well in school, the EU will be wasting a formidable reserve of talent for the future,” said a report endorsed by the committee.

Keep up to date with the news about teaching assistants and the children they work with. UPDATE is Learning Support’s free email news bulletin for primary school teaching assistants. Visit www.learningsupport.co.uk to subscribe.

Most children had weekly sessions of an hour, but some had several sessions a week

One child in five has had private tuition One in five key stage 2 pupils in England has private tuition. A government-funded survey found that 19 per cent of children in years five and six had some private tuition other than music and sports lessons. Even at key stage 1, nearly one child in ten has some private academic tuition. Numeracy and literacy are the most common subjects for private tuition. Most children were having weekly sessions of one hour but

4  Learning Support  Summer Term 1 2009

some had several sessions a week and a few had daily private tutoring sessions. Families with high incomes are most likely to arrange private tutoring. Children whose parents have incomes over £50,000 a year are more than twice as likely to have private tuition as children whose parents earn less than £25,000. The average cost per hour of a one-to-one tutoring session was £21.19 for numeracy and £23.92 for literacy.


news

Union calls for paid time off for training

Training for school support staff has been transformed over the last five years

Getting time off is the biggest barrier to training for school support staff, says new research. The trade union Unison says there has been a “transformation” in training for school support staff in England over the past five years. But although three quarters of staff had received some sort of training over the previous year, it was not all high quality or relevant to their jobs. Half of all staff said they experienced no barriers to training but the other half did. One in four said time off for training and lack of cover were the biggest issues. They were worried that if they took time for training during their working day they would return to an even higher workload. Some staff mentioned training in their own time, for example INSET days that they were not paid for. If the training was outside school hours, childcare was often a problem. The report recommends that support staff should have an entitlement to high-quality training and development and calls on the new negotiating body for support staff pay and conditions to address the issue of paid time off for training.

Reforms ‘exploit TAs’ Support staff are being exploited because of reforms designed to reduce the workload of teachers, an education union conference has warned. A motion passed at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers’ conference said the workload agreement improved teachers’ work-life balance but “deplored” the resulting

Bullying survey

­ xploitation experienced by e support staff. It asked the union’s leaders to lobby for the forthcoming school support staff negotiating body to make sure “all who are involved in the direct day-to-day teaching of children are treated fairly” and to “reward and develop the professionalism of support staff”.

School staff are facing rising levels of bullying by senior managers, according to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers – which has teaching assistant members. The union conference agreed to survey members to ascertain the type and extent of bullying. ■■ The conference also agreed that homework for primary school children was a waste of time and called for all formal homework to be abolished.

Learning Support  Summer Term 1 2009  5


news

More get their secondary school of choice More than four families out of five got their first choice of secondary school this year, according to government figures. Outside London the chances of getting a place at the preferred school was 86%. But in London one in three families faced the disappointment of not getting their first choice and one in 20 was turned down by all three of their choices. More families got their first choice this year than last, after secondary school admissions procedures were tightened up. The School Admissions Code outlawed some practices that enabled schools to select more middle-class children. Parents can now appeal against any application that has been turned down.

An average of four families in five got their first choice of school

Admission policies still not fair enough

Local authorities should decide which children go to which secondary school, not the schools themselves, researchers say. As year 6 children hear which schools they will be going to next year, an independent study calls for simpler admissions procedures for all schools and a fairer system for allocating places to oversubscribed schools. The study by the Education Research Group at the London School of Economics found that most schools were following the government schools admissions code intro-

You can find more resources and information about the issues covered in Learning Support on our web site. Go to www.learningsupport/ resources.html

duced in 2007. But one in 20 schools were using criteria designed to select pupils by ability in a particular subject – more than in 2001 when the last similar study was done. Some schools are also using “supplementary information forms” which could disadvantage some families and are also asking questions which could be used to select in or select out certain groups of pupils. In community schools and some others the local authority allocates pupils to schools, but some academies, some voluntary aided schools and foundation schools select pupils themselves. The researchers say there is a strong case for either the local authority or a religious body with no vested interest in the outcome to be responsible for the allocation of places at all schools.

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Standards ‘harm balance in primaries’ Experts have condemned government interference in the primary classroom. Children are missing out on a “broad and balanced primary education” because of the government’s preoccupation with “standards” says the Cambridge Primary Review, an independent study funded by Cambridge University and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation. It has published several reports on primary education. The latest, Towards a New Primary Curriculum, welcomes the early years foundation stage but says that for older primary pupils “memorisation and recall have come to be valued over understanding and enquiry” because of government policies, including SATS testing. Cambridge Primary Review www.primaryreview.org.uk


School meals staff ‘pushed to breaking point’

School meals staff are under intolerable pressure because of the switch to healthier dinners says their trade union. The change from convenience to fresh foods means a sharp increase in workload and skills needed by staff, says Unison. These include extra cooking, cleaning and stock control duties. But the changes have not been matched by more pay, training or staffing hours. A survey of school meals staff found that nine out of ten said work pressures had increased since they were expected to cook meals from scratch. Barely one in 20 said extra staff had been taken on and nearly half had no extra training. School meals staff also warned that the school kitchen has become more dangerous with people working under intense pressure. More cleaning is needed and if it is not done properly the health of children who eat the lunches could be at risk, said the union. Unison’s head of education Christina McAnea said the union was shocked by the outpouring of anger revealed in the survey. “Many are forced

news

School dinners: sharp increase in staff workload

to work unpaid overtime just to get the meals ready,” she said. Unison is calling for immediate risk assessments of school kitchens and a review of cleaning standards and staffing levels. It also wants more training for staff, and is calling on the Training and Development Agency (TDA) to develop a course for school kitchen managers.

Teachers, heads to parents divided consider SATs boycott over testing The biggest teachers’ union is to ballot its members on a boycott of next year’s primary school SATs tests. The National Union of Teachers’ Easter conference voted in favour of the boycott ballot and the National Association of Head Teachers is expected to discuss similar action at its conference in May. If it goes ahead, the boycott will bring next year’s tests to a halt. This year’s tests will be unaffected. The unions say they want the government to introduce reforms and to give time for an orderly transition to a better system of assessment. NUT president Martin Reed told the union’s conference in Cardiff: “The government will have to understand one obvious fact: because of our boycott carried out with the NAHT there will be no national curriculum testing forced on our schools; not in 2010 nor in any year after that.” The government has condemned the proposed boycott as irresponsible and unlawful. But a spokesman for the NUT said that if there was any question about the legality the union would not be doing it.

An opinion poll for the government shows that 44% of parents want the tests to stay, compared to 36% who want them replaced with another system. The remaining 20% were “don’t knows”. Most parents said they did not intend to use SATS to see how their child was doing at school, nor to monitor their progress, nor to identify areas where their child needed support. One in three parents said SATS had been no use to them or said that they did not expect them to be of any use. Of those who wanted SATS to be replaced, half favoured a combination of the teachers’ judgement of a child’s progress and assessments carried out by the child’s teacher. The results are based on interviews involving 936 parents with at least one child of school age.

Learning Support  Summer Term 1 2009  7


School knitting club: pupils from more deprived backgrounds are less likely to take part in ‘extended school’ activities

news

Child database soon to go live Head teachers will soon be able to get information about any child in England from a national database. Called ContactPoint, it will give authorised professionals access to names, addresses, dates of birth, GPs and schools as well as details of any professional working with a child.

The government says ContactPoint will help social services, health, police, and head teachers keep children safe. But the organisation Action on Rights for Children fears it infringes the privacy of children and their families. It is also concerned that the database may not be secure.

Poorer children miss out on after-school activities “Extended school” services such as after-school childcare and breakfast clubs are being used by about three out of five pupils. But pupils from more deprived backgrounds are less likely to be taking part. A survey for the government found that nearly all schools say they now offer activities before or after school. 58% of parents say their child has attended an activity or used childcare provided through or by the school in the last term. Most parents and pupils are positive about what is on offer, but a substantial number are not. Two thirds of pupils say the activities available to them are good.

Parents and pupils from two-parent families and younger pupils and their parents were most likely to say the activities meet their needs. Parents of children in special schools were least likely to have services which met their needs. For parents and pupils the main appeal of activities was having fun and socialising. Less than a quarter of primary school parents said extended services allowed them to work. 70% of schools offer parenting support and more than a third of parents have made use of this. Special school parents are most likely to have attended information sessions for parents.

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letters

Good communications Learning Support 38 High Street Bishops Castle SY9 5BQ www.learningsupport.co.uk ISSN 1747-1990 © Brightday Publishing 2009 Editor Frances Rickford editor@learningsupport.co.uk 01588 638567 Production Alan Slingsby at editionperiodicals.co.uk Cover picture Paula Martyr Business manager Trevor Chalkley trevor.chalkley@ learningsupport.co.uk Subscriptions and advertising enquiries 01588 638567 info@learningsupport.co.uk

Write to us and win a £30 book token

Split contracts

In Autumn last year you published an article on TA pay and HLTA split contracts. Our school employs four HLTAs and greatly values their work. One showed me your article as we were using split contracts – HLTAs were paid as an HLTA for some of the time and at a reduced rate for teaching assistant hours. Our governors unanimously agreed that the school should remunerate the HLTAs to reflect their training and skills and their contracts have now been amended and they are paid as an HLTA for all the hours they are employed. I would like to thank your magazine for highlighting this issue and demonstrate to your readers that you can make a difference. Chris Pyle, Business Manager St Monica Infant School Southampton

early if they were concerned about the worsening weather conditions. Our system has also proved successful when school trips are running late. By sending a simple text message we avoid having a group of unhappy parents outside school looking at their watches. Hopefully our example will help other schools improve their communications. Cathryn Taylor (Parent and TA) Barnsley Cathryn Taylor wins our £30 of book tokens prize

Dough better

Having read your article in the last issue about play dough I thought your readers might like this recipe for dough that does not leave you with a horrid pan to wash at the end. It is similar to the one you published but is made it the microwave instead: 1 cup plain flour; 1 cup salt; 1 cup water; 1 teaspoon cooking oil; 1 teaspoon cream of tartar; food colouring (optional) Stir all ingredients together and microwave in spells of two minutes, stirring after each two minutes of cooking time until all ingredients are combined and ready to knead. Knead after leaving to stand for at least five minutes as the dough will be very hot. Susan O’Neill Teaching Assistant Ryton Community Infant School Tyne and Wear stevie

Email your letter to editor@ learningsupport. co.uk, fax it to us on 0871 733 5474 or post it to Letters, Learning Support, 38 High Street, Bishops Castle, SY9 5BQ

Your article about the snow (LS23, p 8) made it obvious how much chaos was caused in schools due to lack of communication. Our school, Dodworth St Johns in Barnsley, has set up a text messaging service so that parents and carers can be sent a text message to advise whether school is open or closed in situations like this. Because of this fantastic system, parents and carers were first aware that school was open, then later in the day that the afternoon foundation stage session had been cancelled. Parents were also informed that they could pick their children up

Don’t forget to provide a full postal address (we won’t publish it but we need to know that letters are genuine) and indicate clearly that your letter is for publication. Letters may be edited for reasons of space.

Learning Support  Summer Term 1 2009  9


school trips

There’s so much to gain from visits S

run specifically for schools by organchool trips eh? Two words Whether it’s a walk to that used to strike fear into the isations such as the Countryside the shops or a full day heart of teaching professionals. Foundation for Education. Increasing safeguards and regulations out by coach, planning is In these recessionary times, meant that what the children saw as schools need to be sensitive about vital for school trips, says asking for money from parents for one day of excitement could mean weeks of hassle for their teachers and day trips. The Cost Of Schooling Hazel Davis teaching assistants. survey found that half of all parents Indeed, schools were so worried sometimes felt pressured into about the red tape and risks that distance of the school and to places contributing to “voluntary” school many were cutting back on school where supervision and risk managetrip costs. trips or scrapping them altogether. ment are provided – swimming This alarmed the government and lessons for example. But they should he report found that 87% of led it to launch the Learning Outside always have back up available from parents said they been asked the Classroom Manifesto. This school if they need it. to pay for a school trip – with the encourages schools to take children The LOtC Quality Badge scheme, average day trip costs being £9.47 in out and about by making the process launched last October, aims to primary schools. A shocking 10% of of planning a trip easier for schools provide UK-wide accreditation for primary schools admitted they made without compromising children’s all types of organisations providing compulsory charges for school trips safety. learning outside the classroom. that were part of the national curricEducation outside the classThe benefits promised to schools ulum. Only 38% of parents knew that room (EOC) includes they should not have ‘As long as there are enough adults and to pay for trips during everything from a walk to the local village hours. everyone understands the format of the school hall or library, a visit Jayne Hartley is to a museum or farm, day and logistics, it’s not so daunting’ a teaching assistant or something more in a primary school ambitious such as residential activity are that badge-holding organisain Grimsby. She has been on trips centre trips. You can even do EOC in tions will ranging from singing festivals to the school grounds if you have an ●● offer ‘what it says on the tin’ simple walks to the local shops. “Most interesting garden or wildlife area. ●● take account of the needs of of our trips are connected to a topic users they are studying in school,” she says. here are no hard and fast ●● have an emphasis on ‘learning/ They help to reinforce learning and rules about which adults can skills outcomes’ are particularly helpful to the children lead school trips. Any experienced ●● operate in a healthy and safe who learn in a more kinesthetic member of staff who has demonenvironment. (learning through doing) way or who strated that they are competent to Many destinations such as farms have special educational needs. do it and is able to manage risks can offer support materials in the form The thought of taking large lead or supervise a visit. of worksheets and activities. Farming numbers of children anywhere public Less experienced staff, including and Countryside Education (FACE) might fill some of us with complete TAs, who have been trained in offers resources on its website and dread. But, says Jayne Hartley, “As outdoor supervision can take groups has a network of regional education long as there are enough adults and of children to places within walking coordinators. There are also shows everyone understands the format

T

T

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How to plan a day trip

School trips to places like farms make learning come to life of the day and logistics, it’s not so daunting.” She adds: “We as a school would never place the children in our care in any danger. For any trip a risk assessment is written and all adults involved must read and sign this document. “A first aid kit is always carried as are any inhalers. The staff must be aware of any medical needs of children taking part, a mobile phone is always taken and, should a medical emergency happen with a child, there are always enough staff to return the children to school while another adult stays with the injured child.”

B

ut day trips are not without their hazards: “It is not always possible for transport to drop off directly outside venues so we may have to walk across busy streets. Although we consider all eventualities, we cannot always account for the behaviour of motorists so it can be quite stressful. “Also, in my experience, parents can make school trips very fraught,”

she says. “When trips are arriving back at school some parents just take their children the moment they disembark. Or if the venue is local, they even collect children directly from the site without informing the class teacher or teaching assistant. If we then find a child is unaccounted for, it causes a lot of anxiety.” Nonetheless, says Jayne Hartley, the children gain a huge amount from school trips. “Our trips are usually very ‘hands on’ and allow the learning to come to life. I have personally watched one child blossom through the excitement of experiencing this kind of learning opportunity. “After a trip to a museum connected to a World War II topic, he was able to talk with great passion about the things he had seen, although before the trip he was very quiet in discussions. “This ability to visually recall his experience at the museum allowed him to talk about the visit much more easily. It benefited his writing too, by motivating him.”

■■ Be clear about why you are going and what the learning objectives are ■■ Be clear about how you will supervise the group ■■ Make sure you know how you are going to follow up the events of the day trip ■■ Make sure that you check that any processes and approaches you plan are in line with the requirements of your school and local authority. These are normally based on the 1998 Health and Safety of Pupils on Educational Visits (HASPEV) guidance and supplements ■■ Make sure you have done a proper risk assessment. (It isn’t necessary to assess on-site risks at locations already required to carry out their own risk assessment.) www.lotc.org.uk www.lotcqualitybadge.org.uk www.schooltrips.co.uk

Learning Support  Summer Term 1 2009  11


children’s health

L

Rose Rickford explains how TAs can understand and help children with a serious disorder

iving with thalassemia can be a frightening and difficult experience for a child, as well as being very disruptive to their everyday life. They may not always feel well and might miss a lot of school and. TAs can help by understanding the condition and finding ways to allow children to take part in school as fully as possible.

What is thalassemia? Thalassemia is a disorder passed down from parents to their children. There are different types and severities of thalassemia and severe cases are life-threatening. Blood carries oxygen around our body, but in a person with thalassemia it does not do this as it should. This leads to anaemia, a condition in which there is not enough oxygen being carried by the blood. Some people who inherit thalassemia will have only a very mild form of the condition. They may have no symptoms or just slight anaemia that will show up in a blood test. But

Support for thalassemia

one very severe form of disorder can lead to the death of a baby before or shortly after birth. Another very severe form that you may encounter as a TA can lead to serious anaemia in early childhood. Symptoms of this can include ■■ Feeling tired and weak ■■ Pale skin and jaundice (yellowing of the skin) ■■ Swollen abdomen ■■ Dark urine ■■ Poor growth and unusual facial bone structure Severe thalassemia is diagnosed by blood tests. It is very unusual in Northern European children and more common in children from the Mediterranean (Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, Italy), Asia and Africa. Parents with mild thalassemia may not know they have it, so it is possible to pass on thalassemia to a child without having severe symptoms.

how does it affect a child’s life? Anaemia from thalassemia, unlike

Thalassemia mainly affects children from Mediterranean countries, Asia and Africa

12  Learning Support Summer Term 1 2009

others forms, cannot be treated by providing more iron. Instead, sufferers need regular blood transfusions. This relieves the anaemia for a short time and will make the person feel better. But after a few weeks they will develop anaemia again and will need another transfusion. Regular blood transfusions lead to a dangerous build-up of iron in the body that has to be removed with drugs. They can be taken orally but are more usually pumped under the skin overnight. This can be painful and tiring. Thalassemia can be cured by a bone marrow transplant. But this is risky and depends on having a suitable donor, usually a brother or sister. For these reasons, most people with thalassemia do not have a bone marrow transplant and so have the disorder for the whole of their lives.

What can you do? Children with severe thalassemia regularly miss school to have blood transfusions. They may also feel tired and unwell. They may need extra support to keep up at school, both academically and socially. TAs can support them in catching up in class more effectively than the class teacher is likely to be able to – you may need to go over work they have missed. Missing a lot of school playtimes can also prevent children from building up friendships. Organising games in a small group to include them may help. Include some of the same children each time, so that they build up a pattern of regularly playing together. You can find out more about thalassemia by contacting the UK Thalassemia Society: www.ukts.org.


Displays

Keep learning in focus Linda Hartley explains how to make sure your interactive displays achieve their purpose

I

nteractivity is a buzz word in schools at the moment. We are encouraged to make our displays more interactive. But sometimes the result is only a couple of questions added to the display that will not promote much genuine interaction. Displays do not all need to be directly interactive. Children can get a great deal from displays by guided looking, reading and discussion. The interaction is with each other or with an adult rather than directly with the display. This can be a more powerful educational tool than direct interaction alone.

Indirect interaction Almost any display can be used to encourage indirect interaction. You can use diagrams and 3D models with removable labels for either group or whole-class activities. It can also be fun to use displays with hidden elements.

Partially finished displays can be used to encourage discussion. Work with children to decide what else needs to be added to the display. Incorporate suggestions into the final display and make sure children’s contributions are credited.

Questions to ask before you start What is the learning objective of the interaction? There’s not much point in interactivity for its own sake. It is important that we use it as another opportunity for learning. Having a clear learning objective will help to keep the interactivity focused and effective. What is the action? Try to be clear about how you expect the children to interact with the display. Consider what they will be physically doing during the interaction. It is also worth thinking about what they might do that you would rather they did not do! Is it strong enough? Assuming the children interact with the display in the right way, you need to be sure that it will not be damaged

easily. This can be very discouraging, both for the child causing the damage and for the children who were involved in making the display.

Can they reach it? Too often interactive elements of displays are placed out of reach of the children, either too high or behind cupboards or other obstacles.

Five ideas for direct interaction 1. Word walls – children can access and remove laminated words. (Velcro pads are ideal for these.) 2. Question cards that can be opened or turned over to get the answers or wheels that can be turned to reveal more information. 3. Science display tables for hands-on interaction, like musical instruments on a table in front of a display on sound. 4. Story boards – a set of laminated words or sentences and pictures can be moved into different sequences and used to tell either a known story or for creative writing. 5. Graffiti walls – children can write their own thoughts or ideas on a topic.

Learning Support  Summer Term 1 2009  13


getting a TA job

Where to look B

eing a teaching assistant may not make you rich, but it is a job that is attracting more and more interest. Some people see it as a route to a teaching career. Others are looking for satisfying work that they can fit around their children’s school hours and that will help pay the bills. And a growing number of young people are also now chasing TA jobs during their “gap year” before university. If you’re on the lookout for your first or fifteenth TA post, where should you start? Registering with a specialist recruitment consultant like Teaching Personnel, Select Education or Axcis can be a good idea. Some agencies require an initial interview to discuss previous experience and the kind of role you are looking for before putting you forward for suitable jobs. Others let you register and apply online for vacancies.

Experience as a parent, personal contacts and employment agencies can all play a part in job hunting, says Janet Murray

Cook, teaching assistant at Reigate Priory Junior School in Surrey, is one of these. “If you’re interested in this kind of work, it’s definitely worth registering your interest with your child’s school, in case something comes up,” she says.

Does experience count? So how important is experience? The rather unsatisfactory answer is “it depends” – both on the school and the position it

A

n employment agency is not the only way to find a job as a teaching assistant. Schools and local education authorities vary in their approach to recruitment. Many advertise in local newspapers, others post vacancies on their websites or in parents’ newsletters. It is always worth checking local education authority websites, as they often contain adverts for TA roles. Some national papers such as the TES (Times Educational Supplement), The Guardian or The Independent carry adverts for TA roles, but local newspapers are usually better. Many TAs say they found their job through ‘word of mouth’. This is particularly true of parents who work at their children’s school. Clare

14  Learning Support Summer Term 1 2009

is advertising. For a first TA job, some head teachers may require a qualification such as the NCFE Certificate – Initial Training for Classroom Assistants (stage 2), one of a number of vocational qualifications offered at further and adult education colleges. Most heads would not require previous experience or qualifications for every TA job, but might expect new teaching assistants to ­undertake training once they are in their post. Sound literacy and numeracy skills are important and previous work with children, such as nursery nursing, play work and youth work (paid or voluntary) is an advantage. Julie Silk, head teacher at Harriet-


for a TA job tips for Job-hunters

■■ Register with a specialist recruitment agency. It can take some of the hassle out of job-hunting. ■■ Market any additional skills you have to offer to potential employers. Could you coach the netball team, help with the choir or start a gardening club? ■■ Volunteer. If you have no experience working in schools, offer to help out at your local primary school. Teachers are usually delighted to have an extra pair of hands in the classroom or someone to hear children read. Be ready to apply for a Criminal Records Bureau check.

sham School in Maidstone, Kent, says she looks for people with common sense who simply enjoy working with children. She also welcomes applications from candidates who might have something extra to offer the school community – a hobby for example, that could be turned into a lunchtime or after-school club. “It’s not necessarily about talent or skills,” says Julie Silk. “One of my TAs runs a board game club at lunchtime. Lots of children don’t get the opportunity to play board games at home, so it’s really valuable.”

W

hen a TA job came up at her children’s school, Jayne Evans, who had previously worked in banking, worried that she did not have anything to offer. But the head teacher saw things very differently. “He felt my experience as a parent was important, particularly as one of my daughters is autistic. I’d done a lot of research about autism and developed strategies to deal with her behaviour. I think that helped me secure the job.” Julie Silk says it is worth bearing in mind that even if you have no other experience working with children, you may be able draw on your experience of parenting in your

For people without much experience of working with children, being a classroom volunteer can be a good first step to getting a TA job

­application form or at interview. For more specialised roles, such as HLTA or supporting children with specific learning needs, experience is more significant. As well as relevant training or qualifications, head teachers are looking to match the TA with the needs of the child, says Noel Lellman, head teacher at Reigate Priory School. “If I was looking for a TA to work one-to-one with a child with autism, for example, I’d really need to make sure the TA’s personality was exactly right for that child.” If you have spotted a vacancy that interests you, try to arrange an informal visit to the school before you submit an application. Most schools are happy to give potential applicants a tour of the school and this can be a great opportunity to find out more about the school, its staff and the role itself.

Gaining experience For aspiring TAs with little or no prior experience, putting in some time at a school is always a good idea. A voluntary placement at a primary school convinced Fiona Gray she definitely wanted to be a TA. She later went on to complete her NCFE Initial Training for Classroom Assistants (Stage 1) qualification at her local college, which involved a placement two mornings a week at another primary school. At the end of the course, she applied for a TA job advertised on a local education authority website and was successful. She says: “The head teacher told me later that the experience I’d had made me stand out from the other applicants.” ■■ Next issue: Job applications and interviews.

Learning Support  Summer Term 1 2009  15


Junk figures craft Page Label project

A row of these figures would brighten up the classroom, says Clare Beaton. Decide first what characters you want to make. Perhaps during book events the children could choose favourite figures from a book. Or do a model of themselves (out of school uniform!) or a historical or a mythical character. Encourage them to use a wide range of materials.

What you will need ■■large and small clean plastic bottles with caps ■■sand ■■newspaper, papers and thin card ■■fabrics, braids, buttons ■■tape and glue ■■paint and brushes ■■wool ■■scissors Start by pouring sand into bottles to a depth of about 6cms. This weight will give the figures stability. Replace caps.

Cover newspaper and tape with torn white paper. Leave to dry. Make the head by covering the bottle cap with newspaper. Tape onto bottle forming a round shape. 16  Learning Support  Summer Term 1 2009

See Clare Beaton’s craft and activity books at www.bsmall.co.uk


Form the arms from a strip of thin card measuring 30cm x 5cm. Cut hands at each end. Wrap around bottle near the top and tape firmly onto back, leaving ends free. Now you can paint the face, add hair and dress your figure, covering the arms as well.

Penguin Skittles Make ten of these skittles out of small bottles. Add sand and form the head as for the figures. Cover all over in white paper. Paint back and head black. When dry add beak and eyes. Now all you need is a ball and some floor space for a game! Learning Support  Summer Term 1 2009  17


continuing professional development

 nne Watkinson continues her series on the A new national occupational standards for teaching and learning with a look at how the skills of a sensitive teaching assistant can make any lesson more effective

Assessment for learning

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ssessment for Learning (AfL) is about our focus on how children learn and about developing their skills to manage their own learning. It’s not about testing – though tests form part of what is sometimes called summative assessment. They can inform teaching but they are likely to be much more limited in their effectiveness. They are open to external influences and can result in lack of self-confidence and even fear. In contrast, formative assessment informs teaching. It should be a sensitive and constructive process that takes place in every lesson, and builds children’s confidence and motivation. Assessing pupils’ progress (APP) materials have been developed for English and maths and will be extended to science, ICT and foundation subjects. They will help teachers to determine where children are

in relation to national curriculum attainment target levels and may eventually replace formal tests. The idea is that a pupil who has reached a certain level can progress to the next stage without waiting for the end of a year or a key stage test. Then relevant, targeted support can be provided to help them onto the next milestone. You may be asked to use some of these materials.

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owever, the standards above refer mainly to the everyday observation (with or without notetaking) that you do whenever you are working with a child or a group. This kind of observation takes account of the surroundings, the context of the work and the children’s state of mind and enables you to make immediate adjustments to help the child move on. You will see when they are reading a text with understanding or just ‘barking at print’ or skipping

By passing your observations on to the teacher at the end of a session you will enable the next stage for individual pupils to be more suitably planned 18  Learning Support Summer Term 1 2009

What the standards say STL 1.3 Support the teacher in the evaluation of learning activities STL 1 K6 The importance of planning and evaluation of learning activities K 12 How to give feedback in a constructive manner and in a way that ensures that working relationships are maintained STL 2.4 Contribute to planning to meet children’s development needs STL 2 K1 The purpose of careful observation and noting what children/young people do and how they behave STL: Supporting teaching and learning K: Knowledge (What you need to know and understand) difficult yet relevant words, and you can help appropriately. Without any test, you will know not only if they know the three times table but also if they can use it when working out how many things are needed for a group of three. You can tell if the group is following instructions blindly or if the pupils understand the purpose of a science experiment. When you are working alongside children you should always be aware of how they are managing the task and what meaning the task has for them. The way in which you challenge and praise a child or a group will influence their progress. You can then make subtle changes in your approach that will increase the value of the activity and hopefully enable the children to fulfil the teacher’s objective. The crucial point is your sensitivity in the way you make changes. It is this that will maintain your relationship with the children you are working with. You may need to repeat something or find alterna-


I want to make sure the kids aren’t the only ones learning Broaden your horizons with one of our leading qualifications in education tive resources or plan a different strategy for next time. If you have good relationships with the children you work with, you will also be able to ask them about any problems they have.

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y passing your observations on to the teacher at the end of a session you will enable the next stage for individual pupils to be more suitably planned. Again, you need to do this in an appropriate way so that you are not criticising the planning of the teaching but making helpful comments. Critical friendship is about having a professional working partnership that enables both sides to be honest and yet supportive. You should have time to work with the teacher in this planning as indicated in STL 2.4 to fulfil the standards. You can also do your own planning and look for resources that may help to overcome any stumbling blocks that you have noticed or create more interest in the subject under discussion.

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What’s more, our unique style of supported ‘Open Learning’ is ideal for busy teaching professionals because it allows you to fit learning around your life and work, and delivers valuable skills you can apply straight away in the classroom. What would you like to learn? Certificate in Supporting Learning in Primary Schools Foundation Degree in Primary Teaching and Learning* – NEW Masters in Education Plus courses and qualifications in: Maths Education, Languages, Arts, Social Sciences, Teaching CPD, Psychology, Chemistry and Physics. * Available only in UK from 2010, subject to university approval. Only available as Diploma of Higher Education in Scotland .

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Learning Support  Summer Term 1 2009  19


adopted children

Yvonne Roberts explains how TAs can help adopted children and their new parents

Lost boys and girls S

tephanie and her husband Mark have two daughters, both adopted. Emma is seven and was adopted when she was three. She had had one foster parent and adapted to her new parents fairly quickly. A year ago five-year-old Charlotte joined the family. She had faced much more disruption and insecurity. Both girls go to a small primary school. Charlotte had a number of difficulties in adjusting to the classroom routine. She talked constantly, could be very disruptive and had very poor concentration. She was rapidly becoming a permanent distraction for her fellow pupils. The school, working with Stephanie and Mark, drew up a strategy. Karen, a TA with several years experience, was appointed as Charlotte’s ‘buddy’. “I’d never worked with an adopted child before,” says Karen, 39, the mother of three teenagers. “The school gave me plenty of support and some background material. I hadn’t realised until then how much some of these children have to overcome. “Charlotte’s behaviour began to make a lot of sense once I realised what she had been through. It’s really sad that so many children in Charlotte’s situation are labelled as ‘naughty’, when they’re really just trying to cope as best they can.”

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ccording to the Post-Adoption Centre (PAC), around 3,000 children are adopted each year in the UK. One person in four in the UK knows someone with a link to the adoption process. Nelson Mandela, Moses, the comedian Rhona Cameron and the singer KT Tunstall, were all adopted. According to PAC, children who are adopted often experience multiple feelings of loss, grief and confusion. They have lost their parents and sometimes their siblings too. They may have also ‘lost’ their culture and background if they have been

20  Learning Support Summer Term 1 2009

‘I hadn’t realised how much some of these children have to overcome’

adopted from overseas. They are often curious about who they are and why they are adopted. “Over the weeks, Charlotte asked me why her mummy gave her away, why didn’t she look like her new mummy and where her ‘old’ mummy had gone,” Karen says. “Stephanie and Mark were brilliant. I respected that the family had a right to privacy. But they trusted me and told me everything about Charlotte’s background and we worked together so she heard a consistent story.” “Charlotte and I worked on a family book and she drew what she remembered of her ‘old’ mummy and her new mummy. At first, she drew them on a separate page. But after a few weeks, she put them all together in a garden, with me waving at the gate.” Charlotte’s father had left before she was born. Her mother is a heroin addict. Charlotte was taken into care at 18 months old when her grandmother had become too ill to look after her. A secure attachment during the first two years of a child’s life triggers a ‘heart and mind development’ laying a strong foundation that allows a child to develop trusting relationships. It gives a child a good chance that she will like herself and others. If a child has experienced inconsistent, insensi-


What can TAs do to help? 1. Work with the adoptive parents and enlist the help of the whole school community 2. Give plenty of praise. Discover what the child does well. Remind her of how much effort she puts into work and that’s what matters 3. Do not threaten removal or use language that hints at rejection. Remind the child she is really wanted as a classmate and pupil in the school 4. Remember a child may be in touch regularly with her biological family. Validate the child’s feelings, saying, for instance: “You feel really angry about this today, don’t you?”

A secure attachment during the first two years of aren’s local authority, like many others, has a child’s produced an excellent guide for teachers (TAs life too often still seem to be left out of the loop). That helped her and Sue, Charlotte’s teacher, to decode ­triggers Charlotte’s behaviour. a ‘heart Poor concentration, in Charlotte’s case, for and mind instance, could flag up her constant apprehendevelopsion about what might happen next. (It is thought Charlotte was left alone for long periods in her ment’ tive care or abuse and neglect, or several changes of carer, this foundation is weak or absent. The child may find it difficult to make sense of her feelings and to regulate her emotions. According to the PAC: “At best, the child becomes moody, restless, clingy or withdrawn … at worst, she appears angry, terrified, chaotic or ‘spaced out’ and refusing any kind of care and control.”

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mother’s care.). Talking all the time? Life feels safer that way. Ignoring instructions? Too anxious to be able to listen. Trying to create distraction and chaos? It feels chaotic inside, so it’s safer if there’s chaos outside as well. Unwilling to take on class work? This may be rooted in a child’s fear that if she ‘fails’ or gets it ‘wrong’, she will be rejected again. Karen and Sue also reminded themselves to be aware of sensitive areas. For instance, in the early days, a story about a granddad was read to Charlotte’s class and they were asked to draw a picture of their own grandparent. Charlotte became very upset. “Charlotte told me she wanted

5. Prepare a child for change well in advance. “The lunch break is coming in ten minutes,” for instance 6. If a child has short-term memory problems, use visual aids like a timetable in her bag to relieve stress and anxiety 7. If a child makes personal revelations, enlist the help of the designated senior person or teacher. Make sure that the child has a single person to confide in and is not expected to chop and change. 8. Remember that if parents have adopted for the first time they too are experiencing a range of emotions, some of which may be difficult and unexpected to them. Be supportive to them too if the opportunity arises.

her old granddad back and she didn’t like her new one. I realised that she was also frustrated because she couldn’t remember what her ‘old’ granddad looked like. So, we made up one that she might have liked.”

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n increasing amount of research tells us that many children come through very adverse circumstances because they are resilient. This is partly because they have developed the character to make sense of their circumstances. They tell themselves they can be in control and draw support from people they recognise as caring. Support at home, in the community and in the school really matters. “Charlotte and I spend less time together now and she’s far more secure but it will take a long time,’ Karen says. “For children like Charlotte it’s not a matter of waiting for miracles, it’s a simple case of understanding them better. I tell Charlotte often that I think she’s a wonderful little girl. And I think she knows I really mean it.”

■■ Post-Adoption Centre www.postadoptioncentre.org. uk. Advice line 0207 284 5879. ■■ Contact your local authority – many offer advice and information and have an adoption support team. For instance, Worcester has an Integrated Service for Looked After and Adopted Children (ISL). ISL works with schools to raise the needs of looked after and adopted children. ■■ British Association for Adoption and Fostering www.baaf.org.uk also has publications and offers advice.

Learning Support  Summer Term 1 2009  21


Help for orphan victims of AIDS

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he Landirani Trust was set up four years ago to support orphans in Malawi. Heather Palmer, one of its founders, grew up in the country and had always wanted to do something for the growing number of children there without parents because of poverty and the devastating effects of HIV and AIDS. Heather is a teacher and SENCo and she inspired her two friends nurse Judith Mackie, and former teaching assistant Gaynor Cook to help her. In April 2005 the three made an exploratory trip. As church members they had been in touch with church leaders in Malawi who helped them plan their trip. Early on they visited four villages just north of the capital Lilongwe. In each village there were between 250 and 350 orphans. Over the next 25 days they visited schools, hospitals, orphan feeding centres and malnutrition centres throughout southern Malawi. By the end of the trip they had decided to set up a charity supporting the area that they had first seen which at that time had no outside support at all. When they returned they established the charity calling it Landirani which means “Please receive” in the

gaynor cook

good cause corner

Former TA Gaynor Cook helped set up a charity to help children in Malawi Malawian language Chichewa. They then set about raising money. Schools have played an important part, especially in their local area of Surbiton, Surrey, where several schools have created partnerships with Landirani projects in Malawi. The charity has a “gift list” so donors can choose what to give. For example £20 will feed an orphaned child for a year. Landirani also gets a lot of support from sponsored events – everything from the London Marathon to “Bigfoot” – an attempt to set the record for the biggest ever foot created from children’s footprints – 5,490 in all. One of the charity’s first projects was to equip a primary school in the village of Masiye. The school was already there, but it had no building. So far Landirani has made it possible

The charity has a ‘gift list’. For example £20 will feed an orphaned child for a year 22  Learning Support Summer Term 1 2009

to build two school blocks, two teachers’ houses, a kitchen and a store. “Eventually we hope to make sure all the children at the school get a meal there each day,” says Gaynor who worked as a primary TA for 15 years. “The government has said that if we build a school and provide housing for teachers, they will provide good teachers.” The charity is also helping to supply clean water and sanitation to the area and supporting projects to create gardens and replant ­deforested areas. This is in addition to the direct support it gives to family members – often grandparents – who are looking after orphaned children, providing sleeping mats, blankets, clothes, toys and mosquito nets. Not only does Landirani raise cash, but it also collects educational equipment to distribute in Malawi. Every year it sends a group of 15 volunteers to physically work on the schools for two weeks. Last year the volunteers created vegetable gardens for Masiye school. The work continues on a day-today basis under the direction of its Malawian director Kafumbi Njewa who last year came to the UK for an intensive tour of talks about orphans in Malawi and Landirani’s work there. Find out more about the Landirani Trust at www.landirani.org.


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Is it just tension or is it a tumour? Joy Ogden looks at headaches

your health

eadaches can be a minor pain or a major anxiety. I once had a sudden violent headache and a call to NHS Direct landed me in hospital by blue-lightflashing ambulance. Three days, a lumbar puncture and countless tests later I was released, when the doctors concluded it had been a pain in the neck – quite literally – a muscular spasm. As a teaching assistant you are often at the centre of bustling activity and when you are responsible for small children’s wellbeing there can be tensions. The last thing you need is a headache. But how do you know when to reach for a pain-killer and when to call a doctor?

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Tense?■ Nervous?

ost headaches develop gradually and clear up after a few hours with no possibly serious damage. If you are and you might need urgent treatment lasting effects and virtually everyone confused, lose your memory of the to prevent damage to your eyesight. has experienced them at some time. accident, have recurrent headaches See your doctor without delay. These are unlikely to mean that or vomit, seek urgent medical help: anything is seriously wrong and are you may need hospital investigaisturbed vision is usually the usually caused by things like tension, tion and if bleeding inside the skull first warning sign of migraine over-tiredness, too much alcohol, or is diagnosed you may need an headaches. They usually happen over-heating and dehydration. Aspirin operation. on one side of the head (though or paracetamol, a good night’s sleep If a headache starts then you feel sometimes both), are recurrent and and plenty of water may be all you sick and your vision becomes blurred, severe but not life-threatening. need to cure them. don’t delay, especially if you are Migraines often occur before or But if your headache is severe, over 40. It could be acute glaucoma, during periods and can be triggered starts suddenly, is accompanied by a serious illness where excess fluid by stress, eating cheese or chocolate other symptoms such as nausea or increases pressure in the eye. If or drinking red wine. Try self-help vomiting, lasts more than 24 hours diagnosed you will probably have eye (see box) or ask your doctor for drug or recurs several times in a week, get drops to relieve the pressure and an treatment. medical help. operation later. A blocked nose might mean that Take care at Try these remedies Sudden severe sinusitis – infection of the air cavities school – if you for minor headaches throbbing pain in the front of the skull – is causing bang your head ■■ Take recommended in one or both the pain. Aspirin or paracetamol and and develop a dose of aspirin or paracetamol temples could be staying in a warm, humid atmosheadache that inflammation of phere usually relieves the discomfort. lasts for more ■■ Drink plenty of water or fruit the arteries in the If you are no better in 48 hours, see than a few hours juice head – especially if your doctor, who might prescribe you should get ■■ Have a warm bath you are over 50 – antibiotics or decongestants. it checked for ■■ Rest in a quiet, dar kened room Learning Support  Summer Term 1 2009  23

D


ADHD

Taking a fresh look at ADHD can change a child’s life, says Kate Spohrer

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housands of teaching assistants have been catapulted into the world of ADHD. Meet Harry Hectic, Wendy Whizz and Danny Dream, the children you may be working with now or in the future. A child with ADHD-type behaviour is likely to attract much unwanted attention both in and out of the classroom. You may find yourself with your ADHD youngster a lot of the time, and you will become their advocate. When a child goes for assessment for ADHD the consultant will look at the diagnostic criteria. They are written in very negative language – they are after all trying to identify a deficit: “attention deficit ­hyperactivity disorder”. But we can choose to “reframe” these criteria in a positive light. If we think positively we are more likely to behave positively, to build positive rapport and to get positive results. Our mind controls our behaviour, and the behaviour of the adults around the child is critical to the positive (or negative) development of the child.

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am not trying to minimise the problems faced by anyone coping on a day-to-day basis with ADHD. I am just offering a simple strategy that can have a very positive effect on how you view the child, how the child’s teachers view the child, how the family views the child, and how the child views themself. The diagnostic criteria describe a set of behaviours. If the child exhibits enough of them, to a sufficient degree, in enough different settings, an ADHD diagnosis is likely. (Every ADHD child will have different behaviours, not one will exhibit all of them.) So, let’s see what we can do with

on their own initiative and in their The ‘reframed’ own time aDHD diagnostic 5 Frequently finds organising criteria Below are the diagnostic criteria and below each criterion is a ‘reframed’ version.

1 Frequently makes careless

mistakes in work, does not attend to detail. Able to get ideas down quickly without worrying about making mistakes.

2 Frequently has difficulty maintaining attention in work or play. Ability to multi-task and think ahead to the next task, to think creatively and ‘out of the box’.

tasks difficult. Has a creative and innovative approach to managing tasks

6 Often tries to avoid tasks

requiring sustained mental effort. Likes physical tasks and learns kinaesthetically

7 Frequently without necessary

equipment. Able to improvise and be creative.

8 Is often easily distracted by

normal activity going on around him/her. Is interested in what is going on in the environment, observant and good at keeping a look out.

3 Frequently

does not seem to listen even when spoken to directly. Has the ability to listen whilst appearing to be focussed on something else

4 Often does not

follow instructions/ do homework/ chores etc. not due to defiance or lack of understanding. Is confident in their ability and individuality and can work

Accentuate

24  Learning Support Summer Term 1 2009


9 Frequently forgetful.

Endearing and forgiving character. Does not bear grudges, relaxed and laid back.

10 Often fidgets with hands or feet/squirms in seat. Full of energy, alert, lively and exciting to be with.

11 Frequently out of seat.

Energetic and responds well to running errands, good at physical tasks/activities/ sport. Interested, curious and eager to explore.

12 Usually finds he/she has to

run everywhere, or climb on walls/ banks. Full of energy, entertaining and enthusiastic, love of life, ebullient.

13 Usually ‘on the go’ or acts as if ‘driven by a motor’. Always ready for a new task, never tires.

14 Talks excessively.

Informative and eager to share thoughts and knowledge, full of information.

15 Is noisy at play.

Extrovert and able to give early warning of intent.

16 Frequently blurts out answers to questions before hearing full question. Can be relied on to ‘break the ice’ and take a risk.

17 Finds waiting turn very

difficult to the point of making it impossible for parents/carers to tolerate. Activist who will get things started. Keen to impress and enthusiastic.

18 Will usually butt into

conversations or games. Likes to be involved and always has something to contribute.

■■ Kate Spohrer is a teacher, writer, parent and NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) master practitioner. She has worked as special educational needs co-ordinator, a behaviour advisory teacher and managed a multidisciplinary behaviour and education support team. She now works with families and individuals affected by ADHD, provides training for teachers and other children’s workers and writes books on ADHD and neurolinguistic programming.

the positive

Don’t expect miracles, but do remember that the more positive you can be, the better for everyone the criteria to ‘positivise’ them. Think about how you could use the criteria to describe your pupil to others, focusing on the positive aspects of their personality and promoting their good points. There is a flip side to every coin, and people who want to be quick off the mark may at times be accused of rushing things and being careless – but if it gets the job started they certainly have their place in society. You can apply this thinking to all of the points in the panel. Think about successful or famous people with ADHD attributes; about people who are good at ­improvising, who take risks as explorers or pioneers; do well in business; are successful in the music industry because they are always on the go and trying something new.

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ome of these were boys who were always out getting into scrapes, climbing too high for comfort and giving their parents 50 fits every minute. The girls may have been constantly singing, dancing, acting, organising and bossing. (I make a distinction between boys and girls not because I’m sexist, but because the diagnostic criteria are currently very male-oriented so many girls are not getting the help they need.) Some of my reframed criteria will be more appropriate to your pupil than others and you will no doubt be able to come up with some of your own – but remember always to keep them positive. Jot them down and stick them up on the wall where they will have a chance of catching your eye in moments of weakness and stress. Don’t expect miracles of yourself, but do remember that the more positive you can be, the better for everyone.

Learning Support  Summer Term 1 2009  25


children’s book reviews

Food for thought Eating and reading dominate this issue’s books, reviewed by Nichola Gale Baby Pie Tom MacRae Andersen Press Hardback £10.99 Books like We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and Peace at Last were successful because, as well as being great stories, the repetitive phrases encouraged children to take part in the reading instead of just passively listening. Whether Baby Pie can reach such lofty heights remains to be seen. But, on the face of it, it does have the right elements. With a catchy chorus of “Can you sniff it? Can you whiff it? Lick lips, pat belly, my oh my,” younger children will enjoy accompanying three little trolls as they go on the hunt for the ingredients for their Baby Pie. Readers will, I hope, be pleased to note that there is a happy ending (although not for the trolls), and the tense build up, exciting conclusion and opportunity for audience participation should ensure that this will become a classroom favourite.

Project X Reading Programme Oxford University Press

With such a glut of engaging books on the bookshop shelves aimed at boys, it is sometimes hard to understand why boys are still more likely than girls to give up on their independent reading – but research shows that this is the case. In a new attempt to motivate the boys, Oxford University Press has devised its latest reading programme, Project X. It is a series of 140 books supporting children from year R to year 4 and designed to encourage enjoyment of reading rather than becoming merely another synthetic phonics reading scheme. Grouping its books into themes, the series reflects genres proved

to be popular with boys, including non-fiction and the Project X microadventure and X-Bot character series. It presents them to the reader by way of visual and audio media. Although heavily boy-orientated, Project X is quick to point out that girls too will enjoy its books and benefit from the scheme, if only through the fact that the boys become more engaged in class. Project X comes with a useful teaching handbook for each year. ■■ For more details visit www.oup. com/oxed/primary/projectx/

The Castle of Fear Patrick Burston Walker Books Paperback £6.99 For visual and interactive books designed to appeal to boys aged 6-9, the Puzzle Master Game Books deserve a big gold star. First published in 1986, the series has recently been reprinted. Half story, half puzzle, all thrill, each book invites the reader to embark on an exciting mission while overcoming nail-biting challenges. Visually appealing, they are an early picture-

26  Learning Support Summer Term 1 2009

book precursor to the Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks. As children concentrate on turning to the right pages and completing the tasks, they will be reading without even realising it!


Zac Zoltan’s Mad Monster Agency – Return of the Chocoholic Vampires Knife & Packer Bloomsbury Paperback £4.99

Special Operations – Death Ray Craig Simpson Corgi Books Paperback £5.99

The big drawback with being a Captain Underpants fan is that there is usually a long wait between the publication of each book. Luckily, two new ‘normal schoolboys’ are on hand to fill that void with the launch of this new series for readers aged 6-9. More Ghostbusters than superheroes, Josh Flunk and Spencer Topps live ordinary lives until the ivory skull on the old walking stick in Josh’s bedroom flashes, and they become masters of Zac Zoltan’s Mad Monster Agency. In their first ­adventure, they travel back in time to the ­Chocolate Age, a period that met the same end as the dinosaurs. Can our two heroes save the people of Everyday by containing the curse of the Amulet of Nutty Knitty or will the Chocoholic Vampires succeed in their mission to turn everyone into chocolate? With a comic book style already proved to be popular and a combination of humour, monsters and chocolate, this is a tempting treat for ­reluctant readers and ­chocoholics alike.

If children are no longer to learn about World War II as a compulsory part of the national curriculum, as has been mooted, how can they be introduced to an event which has touched all their lives but which took place 60 years ago? Children’s books such as Death Ray could play an important role, especially when many children do not have the opportunity to hear a first hand account for themselves. The second in Craig Simpson’s Special Operations series is a fast paced action adventure woven around a historical narrative. Teenager Finn Gunnerson has completed his special operations training and, with his friends, embarks on his first mission into enemy territory. Mission Impossible meets World War II, this series is inspired by the real world of the Special Operations Executive and emphasises the bravery of the real wartime freedom fighters.

Junk Food Hero Pat Swindells Aurora Metro Paperback £7.99 The campaign against childhood obesity is now being fought on the bookshelves too, as this thoughtprovoking offering by Pat Swindells shows. When 13-year-old, 17-stone George Guzell conducts his own personal rebellion against healthy school dinners, he embarks on a time travelling journey, forcing him to face up to the fact that he has

Philippa Fisher’s Fairy Godsister Liz Kessler Orion Children’s Books Paperback £5.99 The perennial problem of what you would do if you were granted three wishes is raised in the very readable first book in a new series from Liz Kessler. Elevenyear-old Philippa Fisher finds that obtaining her heart’s desire is not all it’s cracked up to be, especially when her fairy godsister appears to dislike her so much. Friendship, anxieties and what to do if you have embarrassing parents are all covered in this funny and wellwritten story which will appeal to fans of Emily Windsnap and Jacqueline Wilson.

a weight problem which has far reaching consequences for his future. In A Christmas Carol with calories, George is taken back to 1942 to the days of rationing, confronted by present day starvation in the third world and, finally, presented with two versions of his future adult self. The author is quick to stress in

the opening paragraphs that, despite his physical appearance, George is a hero and, indeed, despite his obsession with food, he is a likeable character, representing a group often overlooked or portrayed negatively in children’s literature. This book is short enough to be read as a class story, and can be linked to a number of different topics. It should lead to some good discussion.

Learning Support  Summer Term 1 2009  27


web resources

Rose Rickford tries the new TA Hub on Teachers TV

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New hub a valuable resource

eachers TV is a Governmentfunded television channel and website producing TV resources for teachers and others working in education. It recently launched a new “TA Hub” on its website that is full of resources and programmes made specially for learning support staff. Most of the videos follow the work of a TA or teacher dealing with a particular issue such as dyslexia or behaviour management, or a particular task, like running a small group. The videos give you the chance to watch other TAs at work which can be very interesting and useful.

One video, for example, follows the work of two TAs in a primary school who work with a child with a visual impairment. You can watch footage of their lesson time and interviews about their strategies and advice. Other video subjects include becoming an HLTA, supporting children in managing their anger, and

Supporting Children with ADHD with Kate Spohrer June 17 in Kidderminster June 24 in Central London 9.30am–3.30pm

The videos give you the chance to watch other TAs at work

II The TA Hub is at www.teachers.tv/ta

Course cost £125

II The videos can be watched online or downloaded for free. You can also get Teachers TV on Sky Guide 880, Virgin TV 240, Freesat 650, and Freeview 88 (4-6pm only).

To reserve a place email kate@katespohrer.co.uk www.katespohrer.co.uk telephone 07806 301328

II You can access the Teachers TV schedules online at www.teachers.tv

Spend an entertaining day learning about the current theories of ADHD and go home with many practical ideas and techniques on how to make the life of the children you support with ADHD better and your own life better – everyone benefits

28  Learning Support Summer Term 1 2009

communicating well with parents. You may also find some of the material aimed at teachers useful. There is a good search tool on the website which makes it quite easy to find what you are looking for. For example, if you are looking for ideas about what to do in your numeracy group, you could search “numeracy” and find several videos with ideas for lesson plans and activities. As well as resources to help teachers and TAs, Teachers TV has also produced videos for use in the classroom that are accompanied by information on how to use them. One example is a sequence of short clips designed to inspire children in story writing. To help you use the resources effectively, there is a 15-minute clip showing three teachers using them with different year groups. The website allows TAs to comment on the videos and discuss the subjects covered with other TAs. Some videos contain links to other resources, such as “top tips” and information sheets. Some of these are very basic but some could be very useful to TAs working in specific situations for the first time.

T

he website is attractive and some of the resources, such as those on the TA Hub, are very easy to access. But the site as a whole can be quite difficult to navigate. It contains such a huge quantity of resources that finding exactly what you are looking for may take time. The videos themselves also vary in quality and usefulness. Some just follow the work of a TA or teacher without much explanation of what is being done or why, which is frustrating. But others are very comprehensive and include a useful commentary on the issues being covered. In general it’s a valuable resource, and most TAs will be able to find something useful there.


One, two,■ buttons for you … Numeracy

Sarah Cruickshank finds an educational use for your button box

E

veryone I know has a box of buttons that are “going to come in handy one day”. Here are some suggestions for using yours for maths and creative Safety first activities. be a

1.Big to small

Buttons can rd for choking haza n. young childre them Never leave ed is rv pe unsu

Help the children sort a selection of buttons into a line from biggest to smallest. Extend this into a prediction activity by asking the children to choose what they think will be the biggest/smallest/middle button before they start ordering.

2. Colour sort

Sort the buttons by colour group and have a discussion about the different shades of colours you have in the collection. Sort the buttons in each colour range from pale to dark.

3. Shape sort

Sort the buttons by shape and colour and then see what kind of simple pictures you can create using the buttons. Create collage pictures by sticking the buttons to card or sewing them to fabric.

4. Texture

Look at and feel all the different textures of buttons in the collection, talk about the textures and what they remind you of. Have a

texture treasure hunt to try and find similar textures around your setting.

5. Guess how many

Put a pile of buttons on the table and ask the children to guess how many buttons there are before counting them. Emphasise one-to-one correlation by pointing to each button as it is counted.

6. Flowers

Cut flower shapes from coloured or patterned paper and stick them on to a backing paper or card. Create a centre for each flower by gluing or sewing a button into the centre of the shape.

7. Button pick-up

Help develop or consolidate finemotor skills by encouraging children to pick up buttons between their thumb and forefinger and then post them into moneyboxes. Extend this activity by asking children to pick up specific buttons

(for instance, buttons of a particular colour or with a particular number of holes or sides).

8. Counters

Use groups of buttons to create pictorial sums. Ask the children to make their answers using the buttons.

9. Rubbings

Create interesting patterns or pictures by sticking buttons on to backing card. Once completed, place some thin paper over the top and then do rubbings with wax crayons. The resulting textured pictures could be finished articles, or could be further cut-up to make collage pictures.

10. Buttons as money

Introduce or consolidate money concepts using buttons as currency. Children could have 10 buttons to “spend” on items from a list. Ask them to work out how many buttons they would spend altogether and how many they would have left.

Learning Support  Summer Term 1 2009  29


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Circle games can be played indoors or out and are easy to organise, says Sarah Cruickshank

Page Label playtime

C

ircle games are a perfect playtime or lunchtime activity because, while many children can be included, they do not need many – if any – resources. Here are a few that are suitable for a wide age range and require three resources at most. As you do not need special equipment or an enormous space, they can be played inside or out.

Chinese whispers

These games are fun – pass it on

Resources: None Instructions: Children sit in a circle Choose a starting child and whisper a short and simple phrase or saying. Each child must whisper what they hear (or what they think they hear), to the child on their left. When the message finally gets back to the starting child, they must say out loud what they hear and what the original message was.

Buzz Resources: None Instructions: Children sit in a circle Choose a number to “buzz” and make sure everybody knows it. Go around the circle counting from 1, but remember to “buzz” your chosen number and any number that can be divided by your “buzz”. For instance, if “buzz” = 3 1, 2, buzz, 4, 5, buzz, 7, 8, buzz … and so on.

Keeper of the keys Resources: 1 chair, 1 blindfold, 1 set of keys or sleigh bells. Instructions: Children sit in a circle on the floor Place the chair in the middle of the circle with the keys/bells below it. Choose one child to be the keeper.

Sit them on the chair and blindfold them. Choose another child to be the thief. The thief must crawl to the middle, get the keys and return to their own place without being caught. The keeper points to where she thinks she hears the sound of the thief. If the thief is “caught”, he becomes the keeper and the keeper joins the circle. If the thief is successful, the keys are returned to the centre and the keeper remains the same. Either way, the game begins again.

Drop It, Catch It Resources: 1 football/tennis ball (depending on the age/ability of the children) Instructions: Children stand in a circle You stand in the middle. Throw the ball to a child and tell them to “drop it”, or “catch it”. They must do the OPPOSITE of what you

tell them or sit down. Last one standing is the winner. You can make the game more difficult and last longer by asking children to stand on one leg the first time they make a mistake and then asking them to sit out on the second mistake.

Beat the Bunny Resources: Small ball (bunny), large ball (farmer) Instructions: Children sit on the floor in a circle Start the bunny being passed around the circle. When it’s about half way round, start the farmer chasing in the same direction. The farmer can change direction at any time to try and catch the bunny. The bunny can only change direction AFTER the farmer has changed. The game ends when the farmer successfully catches the bunny. ■■ I hope these inspire you to find more circle games to add to your collection of playtime activities.

Learning Support  Summer Term 1 2009  31


Improve your skills with our new Teaching Assistants Hub Created especially for TAs and HLTAs, this new area of the Teachers TV website brings together everything from ideas for the classroom to help with career development.

Our free service offers • • • •

realistic advice practical tips classroom resources links to useful websites

All to help with your career development and make life easier in the classroom today. For more information visit:

www.teachers.tv/ta or www.teachers.tv/hlta Teachers TV is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week on Sky 880, Virgin TV 240 & Freesat 650 and on Freeview 88 from 4-6pm daily

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Taking a fresh look at children with ADHD Supporting■■ ■ adopted■children are■School■tripS■■ ■ worth■the■bother? how■to■get■a■■ ■ (new)■ta■j...

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