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Managing TAs in a SEN classroom

Discussion in 'Special educational needs' started by svou, Oct 12, 2017.

  1. svou

    svou New commenter


    I've been a special needs teacher for the last five years, teaching children with a range of special needs, SLD/ASD/PMLD etc. Even though I've loved the kids, loved being able to adapt the curriculum to suit there needs and loved working with a different professionals to give the kids the best educational support, I've really struggled managing the support staff in my classroom.

    I've spoken to other SEN teachers who have struggled to manage their staff but I never find any threads on this topic on TES.

    Last year, I had a nice team but it soon soured when one wasn't really accepted by the others. She became intolerable and moody and we just had to ignore her outburst for the last term.
    I moved to another part of the city over the summer and had to find a new school. I quickly found a job but after a week at the new school I was starting to have problems with my new TAs. Two of them were terrible! They were lazy, didn't want to make any resources, complained if they had to work with certain children, fell asleep in class, complained about my lessons, complained about everything! When I mentioned this to my Head Teacher I was scolded, being told that I need to manage my assistant more effectively. How is this possible when you don't even have an opportunity to select them in your classroom. I had enough of the school and resigned. I want to go back to mainstream.

    Does anyone else have this problem? I would love to hear any tips on how other SEN teachers manage their support staff.
    Landofla likes this.
  2. rosiecg

    rosiecg Occasional commenter

    How to manage TAs has been covered widely in other areas of the TES forums, but it is true that managing several within an SEN classroom can be particularly tricky.

    I found that the best thing to do was to ensure communication was clear and open - we had a communication book where I put in things that needed doing each day, notes about upcoming events etc. The TAs would write back to me as well. I also shared the planning with them in advance so they knew what they needed to do at what time. Another thing I tried to do was play to their strengths - I knew A was good with computers but B wasn't sure, so I would ask A to upload our photos and put them into files, whilst B ran a music session, for example.

    I only had one TA who caused me problems - like the people you mention in your post she was lazy, wouldn't do certain things, complained about everything.... I was advised to sit down with her and go through her job description with her to check she understood her role. You can't argue with an official policy or paperwork! When she continued to moan and make trouble I ended up saying to her that if it was so bad she could look for another job - not entirely professional but it is true, we all make choices about where we work! And SEN just doesn't suit some people....
    minnie me likes this.
  3. Jo3Grace

    Jo3Grace New commenter

    You are right that this is a common position, and although there are things you can do about it which I am sure other posters will suggest, like the great job description advice above, really the problem comes about at a different level.

    We are teachers, qualified in teaching, your knowledge base is in this area. In mainstream you could be in a room on your own, possibly with 1 or 2 support staff. But in a special setting you can be managing teams of 4 or 5. Leading a team such as this is a skill in itself. One we are not trained for. Just because you are good at teaching doesn't mean you're good at people management. A little training would help.

    The set up of the school also helps. It is useful to have clear boundaries of responsibility. Special schools are wonderful at having everyone feel equal. We really are teams, everyone is vital to the well being of the children and being respected as such is wonderful, but we still need to know who is in charge in each room and sometimes we lose that.

    Another institutional level of this problem is whether schools do whole school training with their TAs, a lot of classroom disputes crop up over misunderstandings about the best route to take with the children. People who have not received training will quite naturally rely on the knowledge base they have, often this relates to mainstream children. I regularly meet the notion that children with SEN are 'just being naughty' and would be cured with 'a good telling off' if you try and work in a team with someone who has this underpinning notion then you're fighting against it from the start.

    I should say that I'm sure it goes both ways, I imagine somewhere there is a bunch of well trained understanding TAs who've just got a new teacher in their room who thinks the children need a good telling off. It's not about whether you're a ta or a teacher in the end it's about whether you have the right knowledge and understanding, and finally people skills, and whether the setting is supporting you.

    Finally for people falling asleep in class, or refusing to work, that's surely a situation that needs to be dealt with by the people who employed them - which is the other thing you mentioned that wouldn't happen in another situation - you don't get to choose your own team.

    It's tricky all around.

    Best wishes in mainstream
    galerider123, Pomz and minnie me like this.
  4. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

    Agree that there have been lots of posts re deployment of TAs - variations on a theme. Clear rationale/ policy for deployment - understood by all parties and crucially PM targets are key.

    As an aside I don't think it should be about having a ' nice ' team - it is about having one which is effective and successfully supporting students'learning. If you have evidence ( not anecdotal ) to demonstrate the TAs in question are not professional / getting the best out of the children ( however that is determined ) then you have a responsibility to address. If there are areas for development then you should identify and provide a range of support mechanisms . Then it may become clear if the staff in your charge 'can't / won't ' ? This may sound harsh but you need to grasp nettles or the children lose out and that is unsupportable.
  5. harsh-but-fair

    harsh-but-fair Star commenter

    If your HT thinks it's OK to fall asleep in class perhaps you should try it?
  6. Pomza

    Pomza Star commenter

    'Select them'?

    Not sure many teachers, in any setting, get to 'select' their TAs. Express a preference maybe, if your lucky...
  7. R13

    R13 Occasional commenter

    It doesn't matter how good a teacher your are on an individual level - if you can't motivate, lead and manage a team of LSAs you can not be a success in a special school context where you effectively have a team deployed under you. If you don't want that team leader role then don't work in a special school . . . though I would readily admit it is a challenge for many teachers and one where it is very difficult to find high quality CPD to help teachers develop their skills.

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