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“From having TAs who said they were never any good at school having the confidence to do something that that is massively rewarding. It shows that we’re all on a learning journey and it doesn’t matter how old you are, there’s always room to grow if you have the right support.”

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New approach to teacher support drives award-winning transformation

Overhauling the traditional role of Teaching Assistant (TA) has helped a Bradford primary school to scale the OFSTED assessment ladder and catapulted it to awards success.

Shirley Manor Primary in Wike was recently crowned School of the Year in the Bradford and District Education Awards.

But although the school, under the leadership of headteacher Heather Lacey, has successfully taken its OFSTED rating from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘good’ in just two years, it was a very specific change in the classroom dynamics that really caught the eye of the judges.

Shortly after taking over the reins, Heather was successful in enrolling the school in an Education Endowment Foundation backed scheme aimed at maximising the impact TAs in all settings.

Run by University College London, the MITA programme involved completely re-imagining the TA role and putting it at the heart of school life.

“MITA has been totally transformational for Shirley Manor,” explains Heather. “It has enabled us to re-examine the way we use both our TAs and the wider curriculum.”

“One of the main benefits of the programme is that it has enabled us to get teachers and TAs to properly understand how they can work together more productively. It has changed the culture of the school and turned the accepted norms on their head.”

The MITA approach focuses on intense, structured collaboration to determine how best TAs can best add value and become genuinely invested partners in a school’s success.

Heather admits to some initial resistance to the new ways of working – from both TAs and their teaching colleagues – but these, she insists, can be easily overcome with the right leadership focus.

She says: “The key is setting some non-negotiables at the outset in order to properly differentiate the two roles but at the same time it’s important to remember that the clue is in the name – TAs are there to ‘assist’ the teaching, not just to be a helper.

“Making the system work involves changing mindsets on both sides. Teachers can sometimes rely too heavily on TAs to do jobs such as setting up classrooms or doing the photocopying but at the same time you might have a teaching assistant who is happy to just spend their time washing out paint brushes.

“By getting to know the individuals and the way they like to work, then mapping that against different groups of children, you can create a situation where the TA is actively helping the teacher to be better at their job.”

Heather and her team have changed the working hours of their TAs so they arrive at school each morning before the children and they have set up detailed feedback system so that teachers and TAs can share up-to-the minute information on developments during the school day.

In addition, two TAs have been nominated to sit on the leadership team to ensure their views are heard and taken on board at every stage.

MITA has proved so effective that at the school’s last OFSTED visit, the inspectors reported being barely able to tell the difference between teaching and TA staff.

Heather adds: “To top it off, we are also seeing the TAs start to grow in confidence to the point where two have gone to college to study Maths and English and a further two are planning to go to university to pursue fully qualified teacher status.”

“From having TAs who said they were never any good at school having the confidence to do something that that is massively rewarding. It shows that we’re all on a learning journey and it doesn’t matter how old you are, there’s always room to grow if you have the right support.”

Heather is now using the experience of implementing MITA to train other schools across Bradford in the approach.

The Education Foundation is also studying the success of Shirley Manor’s work as part of a research project aimed at transforming the way TAs work across the country.

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TA photo

Image Copyright Telegraph & Argus

“From having TAs who said they were never any good at school having the confidence to do something that that is massively rewarding. It shows that we’re all on a learning journey and it doesn’t matter how old you are, there’s always room to grow if you have the right support.”

Children working

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