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Why are T.A.s treated so badly & made to feel pretty worthless in the UK?

Discussion in 'Teaching assistants' started by Harrybo, Jun 16, 2012.

  1. At present I'm working as a T.A. in a northern school and from half-term was asked to work with a new class, mainly supporting a wheelchair bound student, but also to keep an eye on a lad with autism in the same class. I was told to give the autistic lad a wide berth at 1st until he got to know me and was quite surprised to see him on day 1 spending most of a lesson on his Blackberry mobile phone! (autism general means a withdrawn personality/uncommunicative & yet Blackberry phones are renowned for their push e-mail & advanced communication features). On Thursday I saw him off-task in another lesson and I decided to try to get him back to work. When I sat next to him he moved his stuff to sit elsewhere. I indicated to the classroom teacher that I wanted to have a quiet chat outside the room (so I could explain it was my job to help him), but he initially refused to leave, causing much disruption to the lesson. Finally after much persuasion he did exit the room, but he slammed the door in my face and then punched me. Student suspended for 2 days. This has put me in a difficult position as I work through an agency and although I have been there since February my work could be terminated at any time, so I have not been too vocal in my displeasure. The next morning I really had to bite my tongue though. The senior SEN person for the key stage to which this student belongs (please understand I have to avoid specifics) explained that when I was told to give this student 'space' it was because the agreement he has with the school is that if he needs help he will put his hand up, if not teaching assistants should stay away (no doubt so he can carry on tapping away on his Blackberrry). This seems wrong to me - the hierarchy in the classroom should be Teacher - T.A. - student, but in effect this 'agreement' means the 'chain-of-command' is Teacher - pupil - T.A. I did point out that I thought it was crazy to allow a student with special educational needs a smartphone - I said that he was either SEN or a young entrepreneur, but not both! I was told, in effect, that if the parents send the kid to school with a phone, that was their decision (what happened to the principal of 'in loco parentis'?). I really wish I could just move on, but I am hoping to work a few more weeks and possibly in the summer (I have asked to be involved with their summer school) because 6 weeks is a long time to go without pay. It has been indicated to me that when the suspended student returns to school next week, I will be in a re-integration meeting. If so any advice on how I approach that, would be appreciated. Should I explain to the student that it is my job to help him and I will do so if I see him off-task/on his phone? or should I accept the status quo and accept the exisiting situation? Harry
  2. dozymare1957

    dozymare1957 Occasional commenter

    Why have you posted this twice under different headings?
  3. Hi,
    I sympathise with your situation. However I'm not sure why having been told to give the student a wide berth you decided to intervene on day 2! I would suggest you ask to speak to the 'senior SEN person' again and clarify your role and responsiblities with the lad.

  4. Thanks for the positive advice (I have posted this in a couple of other places and regret doing so - I have had a lot of nasty comments in the opinion forum when all I'm trying to do is ask for advice). You may have misunderstood my op, I started to work with this class on Monday & for three days I gave the student I originally wrote about 'space' and just 'observed', but its a catch-22 situation. If I see the student off task or struggling with the work, do I leave him alone and look ineffective or do I try to get involved and do some good work? I did actually speak to the classroom teacher a day after this incident and she has advised me just to not bother with this student in the future and I will respect that, but is that really in the best interests of the child?

  5. hubcap

    hubcap Occasional commenter

    I once heard some good advice- if you dont want an argument, dont pull on your side of the rope! (and that was from an SEBD advisor)
    You have shown that you were willing to help and explained to the SEN that he had a smart phone. You have done your bit. Now you have been told he can have the phone and you should steer clear. I would keep an eye on him, making mental notes of what hes up to, give help if he asks and inform the SEN if they ask you anything. No win situation- do whay they tell you, take your pay! Hope you find permanent employment soon- elsewhere!
  6. R13

    R13 Occasional commenter

    say the authority should be teacher - TA then Pupil and are annoyed that it's not BUT after a very short time with the school and the child you are annoyed because it's not TA then SEN head!!

    You've been told to give space. You've been told that the child can have and use a mobile and you've told us you are not in charge but do appear to have some significant problems with accepting this.

    Ask for clarification about what to do and then try to do it. As a TA you deserve a decent explanation and decent advice BUT after a very short while with the child (Spectacularly unsuccesful time at that) I don't feel you deserve to decide on policy about the child's management.
    Making the link from your experience to the title of this thread is bizarre. I work with many assistants who through years of experience have shown they can follow instructions, use initiative and give advice to senior colleagues which is accepted and valued.

    PS - I would say that an ASD person using a mobile for communication is extremely commonplace. The fact that people with ASD find communication difficult is typically wrapped up in social interaction issues and the mobile removes those
    Personally I wouldn't allow it in class but am respectful enough of a colleage to assume they might have a good reason to do so in this case
  7. R13 in response to your 1st comment - I was not told the student could use a mobile, I just observed his covert use of it in lessons. In response to the PS "I would say that an ASD person using a mobile for communication is extremely commonplace. The fact that people with ASD find communication difficult is typically wrapped up in social interaction issues and the mobile removes those"

    The current Head of Ofsted banned mobiles at the Mossbourne academy and I am pretty sure he is telling his inspection teams to look out for them now and in the future. As the focus in current inspections is only on 4 things, one being behaviour I can envisage a situation where even one lesson where Angry Birds or bbm is seen will, from September, lead to grading of 'requires improvement' or even 'special measures'. Do you think a school will get away with saying that pupil x is on their iphone/blackberry/android phone because he/she has a specific SEN? I don't think so.

  8. R13

    R13 Occasional commenter

    2 points Harrybo

    1 - I have said I wouldn't allow one
    2 - You are still missing the key point. You are not in charge. You have ignored instructions and performed poorly and inflamed a difficult situation. Having the arrogance to quote the Head of OFSTED (fool that he is) is one thing - I don't think the school would suddenly need the input of a new and unsuccesful person to tell them how to manage OFSTED . . . . but to answer your question specifically - it would entirely depend on the extremity of need and the quality of the programme. Personally I could envisage a situation where it could present success for a child if carefully handled.

  9. 2 points R13

    1 - What makes you think that I'm an 'unsuccessful person'?

    2- Why do you think the Head of OFSTED is a fool?

  10. dozymare1957

    dozymare1957 Occasional commenter

    Everyone in education knows that anyone connected with OFSTED is a fool![​IMG]
  11. I've read this thread with interest. I'll offer my humble opinion on the situation.
    Well, the advice of keeping distance whilst he gets to know you is sound advice, people with ASD have real difficulty in understanding people and 'rules'. Working with them requires a built up level of trust and once you have a good relationship with him, and he thinks that you are fair, he would be far more likely to give you the mobile phone. In response to your difficulty in understanding his connection to the mobile phone, ASD children often have obsessions around technology.
    This is the child showing you that they aren't comfortable with you yet. I think up to this point you were doing the right thing, absolutely using his phone is a concern, but at this point you should have 'picked your battles' and saved it for another day.
    Quiet chats outside the classroom are never a good idea until you know any child well because if they refuse, then you've immediately got a situation that can only go downhill. So this went from the child affecting his own learning to significantly disrupting everyone else's learning. It has also led to the assault on a member of staff and to a fixed term exclusion of a pupil.
    Perhaps the most sensible thing you've done so far!
    Agree with it or not, this is the agreement between the school and the pupil. It explains his reaction as he wasn't expecting you to sit next to him as his hand wasn't up.
    It's not about hierarchy, it's about respect and differentiation for his disability. Heirarchy is perceived anyway and this incident will have done nothing to raise your authority within the eyes of this pupil, other pupils or staff anyway.
    Google draconian.
    My advice would be to apologise for what happened and say that you weren't aware of the agreement he had with the school, but that you'd really like to help him with his learning. Ask if it would be ok for you to come and sit next to him sometimes, just to see how he's getting on.
    You just sound very inexperienced Harry and you've done all the wrong things, for all the right reasons. I understand why you've done the things that you've done and why you say the things that you say. This child had an agreement with the school and it really had to be followed and respected. This situation would have been very distressing for the child and his reactions were probably very distressing for you and the other pupils. Respect the experience of the staff around you and do what they tell you to do, as you gain a relationship with the pupil then you can start to make some changes. Take this as a learning experience and develop your skills. Your response would have been effective (although not the best) for most mainstream children, but it's just not the right approach for children with SEN and behavioural difficulties.
  12. R13

    R13 Occasional commenter

    I've read your OP - that's why I described you as unsuccesful. You've told us you ignored advice,
    over stressed a child and got hit . . .doesn't sound a roaring success to me

    I called the head of OFSTED a fool as he said that if there is low morale amongst teachers - something must be going right.

    In hindsight I'm impressed with my own politeness
  13. Harrybo, are you qualified as a TA? or are you knew to the role?

    Word of advice from one TA to another:

    When new to a class observe, observe, observe, when you see something you disapprove of, find strange, or are unsure of, observe, make a note and discuss respectfully with the Teacher after the session for guidance and clarification on class, school, LEA policy and expectations.

    When asked to work with SEN children demand clear guidance and any specifics that are laid out in the IEP or home school agreements, there are more often than not home school agreements with SEN children and 99% of the time it is such with ASD youngsters.

    The Teacher has overall authority and care for the child in their class, seek their verbal approval and permission to remove a child from their care/class and give the reasons for doing so, they must be given the authority to make an informed choice. Only accept explicit eye contact approval to remove a child from a colleague you know very,very well.

    Each child is an individual, the Teachers and SENCO will have a well rounded and in depth knowledge of a child's history, do not make assumptions, if not sure on an issue seek out the knowledge from the professional in the know.

    You are there to support the children yes, but that is at all times under the guidance of the Teacher, who is responsible for the child's education. If you do not know the accepted form you refrain from action until guidance is sought in all except the most volatile situations where harm may come to others. If you are unsure of things, pass a note to the teacher during the lesson and they will act if they believe it necessary, never undermine a Teachers authority or knowledge of a class, and never segregate a child without clear understanding of what the consequences will be for the child, class and school.

    As the parent of an ASD child I would have been a little put out with your behaviour, not least that any anxiety an ASD child feels can have long term consequences for re-settling again in school, once they have lost trust in someone it can have a long term effect for them, you , the teacher, class and home.

    If you are not qualified as a TA I urge you to get so and soon, this will not give you experience but it will give the skills you so clearly need to gain experience the right way and make life for you and the school less stressful. I wish you luck and hope in future you can take the time to view all staff and children as unique and individual. I am not saying don't take matters into your own hands when necessary, but make damn sure you have an idea of what the consequences will be for all concerned when you do.

    If you are qualified and experienced, I would urge you to not agree to work with SEN children until you have completed thorough SEN training.
  14. You have my sympathy as you were in a difficult position and I'm sorry that you had the trauma of getting punched. You're obviously a conscientious person but you must realise that you need to keep your head down in that situation. Offer help if it's needed. Otherwise, just your presence is helpful. You are, to an extent, fighting your corner in the classroom. There is a clear hierarchy though, and if the teacher tells you to what to do, you must do it. To be honest, otherwise you're just making problems for yourself.
  15. glenn_xp

    glenn_xp New commenter

    .....is the best advice so far.

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