Friday, 22 November 2013

PRU teacher Neil Finbow is ROARing his support for teaching assistants

Mr Gove appears to believe that the halcyon days of education lie well in the past. The 50s and 60s, when learning was by rote, GCEs were rigorous and behaviour good.
I am one who had that education.
I can clearly remember this 7 year old walking home from Old Heath Primary School in 1961 chanting to myself ‘nature abhors a vacuum, nature abhors a vacuum’, with no real idea of what a vacuum was and even less idea of the meaning of ‘abhors’. Still I learnt it and remember it to this day.
I can also remember that, when I was in what would be now Year 5, two new young children arrived in our class. They were brothers, a year apart in age, but put into the same class because they had the same ‘problem’. They were illiterate.
I have no idea of any of the circumstances behind why they had never been taught to read and write, all I can remember is that they were good at football.
They were placed at the back of the class, given a copious amount of blank paper and crayons and left to colour-in and draw all day. Yes they did join in with the bits that they could. like games, listening to stories and, of course, art. But otherwise they were left to their own devices. You see there was just nothing to be done for them. It was a class of 34 now and there was nobody or no time to give them any extra help.
It is, however, very ironic that in the following year when six of us who were deemed 11+ material were hived off to the headmaster’s room every morning for a term for extra tuition to help us pass.
I have no idea what happened to these brothers, perhaps they became prolific artists, but I went to the local grammar school.
Today we have our wonderful TAs.
I am convinced that, because of the introduction into the Teacher’s Pay and Conditions document of the ’25 tasks’ that teachers are not supposed to do, Mr Gove, Mr Osborne, et al, think that all TAs do is photocopying, data entry and classroom displays. The things that teachers should still be doing. How wrong could they be?
I feel no need to list all the wonderful things that TAs do here as every head teacher, teacher, governor and parent will know from experience what a difference they have made to the education of their children. It appears to only be the ‘usual culprits’ who have no idea whatsoever what happens in a school or the problems that we have to deal with in real life, that think they could be dispensable.
When I first started teaching I was told to make friends with and be nice to the caretaker as he really ran the school. Now that advice must include the TAs as well.
In fact I would go one step further than just calling for the retention of TAs. I think we should be calling for an increase in their very meagre pay and a change to their contracts that makes them so vulnerable.