The job of secondary learning support assistants is incredibly difficult. How many of you would feel you could support a child in Maths, English, Science, Music, Art, French, ICT and more? I know I couldn’t, at least not without considerable help from the classroom teacher.
Although not all students with ASD get additional support in class, many do – at least for some part of their timetable. Teachers are given very limited training about how to work with them, and at least at first it can be nerve wracking to have an extra adult in the room. Learning Support Assistants are dedicated professionals who work incredibly hard to ensure success for the student(s) they work with and can often appear more expert at managing the child with SEN than the teacher feels that they are. As a consequence of these things many teachers leave the LSA to manage (and often teach) the student with very little input.
As teachers we need to be responsible for effecting a change. There are lots of ways that we as teachers can help support staff and therefore help the students. What’s more every single one of the support staff I work with would welcome more teacher input. So here I’ve tried to sum up the top five ways that you can be part of that change and make a difference. What’s more, it’s all really easily achievable:
- Say hello to the member of support staff when they come into the room. It sets a tone of respect for the other students and shows the LSA that you value them being in your lesson.
- Give LSAs materials that you are studying in advance, so they have more time to think how to support the student in the lesson.
- Check in regularly with the student and their LSA, to make sure they both understand what you are teaching. It’s impossible for an LSA to be an expert in every subject they work in.
- Reassure the LSA that your priority is that the student learns, not that they complete the task. Encourage them to let you know if they feel the task is too hard for the student to complete, rather than over prompting them. (This one is in bold because it’s the one that I know worries support staff the most)
- Ask the LSA to write – either directly in the student’s book or on a post it note – the level of prompting they gave the student to complete the task. This will benefit the student because you can plan more effectively for them, but it will also benefit you because you will know what they can do and what they can’t.
The key is to remember the LSA is not the differentiation, nor is it their responsibility to differentiate the work. Students with SEN (even those who come to class with specialist support) are the responsibility of the teacher. Having an LSA in the room can be a massive asset both to you as a teacher and to the student being supported, but in order to maximise their impact we as teachers need to take responsibility. We need to enable LSAs to have the impact they want to have. We need to enable our students to be the best they can be.
So what are you waiting for? There’s a whole lot of ‘Hellos’ to be said…