Do we trust our EAL TAs too much?

Last week I enjoyed returning to Enfield to meet with previous colleagues and present information about our tools and services. This gave me a unique insight into classroom practice that I had not questioned before i.e. do we trust our EAL TAs too much.

Don’t shout at me too much until you consider this.

Twenty years or so ago  mums came to school and supported their local school by listening to pupils reading. Then some schools had teacher recruitment difficulties, others had budgets to cut and these same people were suddenly give the opportunity to have more responsibility. Some mums were brave and admitted they were not up to this level of academic knowledge or did not have a sufficient skill level re. imparting knowledge. Others with insufficient skills, knowledge or performance levels sometimes kept going until they either failed through some measure put in place to ensure that only those with the appropriate skills and knowledge got through or the head teacher promoted them no more.

This was easily done as there was a common language through which assessment, mentoring and guidance was given. There was also not so much criticism from OFSTED, and governors at that time did not have as much influence over the schools performance .

Today everyone from the pupils to the teachers are monitored, performance managed, mentored, guided or just let go.  We even monitor each other!However one group of people are not specifically targeted probably due to the lack of common language once instruction us given. The group are the EAL TAs even if their English language in every day sentence structure is incorrect we use an excuse generally  along the lines of …well it is their second language. How do we know that in their first language they are any better?

This leads me further to question:
1.How can we check this?
2. As school governors how can you be sure they are doing the best for your pupils?
3. Are children taking longer than others in similar circumstances to learn English because your TA s are needing the instruction first or simply do not have the academic language required to support these pupils?
3. When did you last really look at your TAs performance?

This then leads into how do we cross the language barrier to give our TAs the same support as other TAs and teachers? One solution is Two can Talk which allows the teacher/ senior manager or head  teacher to communicate in their respective first language and pick up the sort of information you need. How can we expect this group of  people to teach the variety of curriculum areas they need on a daily basis without finding the support we need to give them.

Also re CRB checking are we sure that although they may not be registered in the UK if they have not been in the UK long they may be registered in their home country.

What school leaders should consider
1. Why am I leaving this child’s education in the hands of someone who has not been checked or taught to the required academic level  needed to support them across many curriculum areas (consider SEN pupils who need more support and their teachers specialist instruction)
2. Why  am I sending a group of children out from the classroom with an adult that I am unsure what their teaching ability and academic knowledge is but just implicitly trust that they are doing as good a job as I would in their circumstances.
3. How can we as a school improve the children’s chances?
4. Just because a parent or TA speaks a language that we as a school community needs access to it doesn’t mean that this person will be competent across all teaching levels. How can I support them?
5. How can I measure competence of academic instruction?
6. How can I measure pupil performance against TA instruction?
7. How do I create performance management policies for EAL TAs

How do others think? How can we support this unchallenged and unsupported group of people who are told here are 10 children and then just left to get on with it.


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