Assistants offer a wealth of skills

In response to the letter in the Journal of December 17, Parents are being shortchanged , I would be interested to know if the author is aware of the extremely rigorous assessment process that takes place before Higher Level Teaching Assistant status is awarded.

In response to the letter in the 'Journal' of December 17, 'Parents are being shortchanged', I would be interested to know if the author is aware of the extremely rigorous assessment process that takes place before 'Higher Level Teaching Assistant' status is awarded. There are currently 33 professional standards which candidates must demonstrate, encompassing professional values, practice and skills, knowledge and understanding, teaching and learning, planning and expectations, monitoring and assessment.

Teaching assistants of all grades have an extremely important role to play in the education of our children, and most education professionals would, I think, agree that it is the human resources that are the most valuable that we have in schools.

I would agree that HLTA's, and indeed, all teaching assistants are 'well-meaning and responsible'.... but they also offer SO much more than that. At the school where I am employed, support staff demonstrate a wealth of skills, and are deployed accordingly and effectively, to enhance teaching and learning.

Whilst there is clearly no shortage of teachers in Devon, there is a significant shortage of funding for schools. The fact that there are skilled, motivated, dedicated, and professional teaching assistants, who, although poorly paid, are encouraged by an increasingly meaningful and recognised career structure, must surely be a positive situation for Devon schools.

There are many positive aspects to well-qualified support staff covering for teachers. They will be familiar with the ethos, policies and routines of the school. They will be actively involved in planning and assessment, and have ample opportunities to consult and liaise with, and feed back to class teachers and, most importantly, they will know, and be known to, the children and parents. They will also almost certainly have many years of experience of working in schools, with children, with teachers, with parents, and have observed and acquired valuable aspects of good teaching practice. They may also have other life experiences, education and knowledge that some newly qualified teachers may not yet have experienced.

As regards parents being 'shortchanged', surely it is the children who must be the priority, and if effective monitoring of teaching and learning is a feature of the school, parents can be assured that their children are not being shortchanged, but are receiving excellent education and care.

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A Devon HLTA