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bed32

Qualifications for Teachers of ASD Children

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bed32   

All the advice on statements emphasizes how important it is to specify that teachers are Qualified/Experienced.

 

I am wondering what qualifications there are out there that relate specifically ASD?

 

When assessing whether a teacher - or TA - is suitable what specific qualifications or key experience should I be looking for, and if I get the opportunity to speak to them what sort of questions should I be asking.

 

On a slightly different tack, our son now has a TA (with no experience in anything at all) for about 15 hours a week, and provision will go up to full time once the statement is finalised in a couple of weeks time. We like this chap, and school are pleased with the way he is working with our son.

 

The statement will specify a "qualified" TA (in ASD terms) which this chap certainly isn't. Is there a credible way of getting him on-the-job training over the next few months or should we be looking to request that the school replace him with someone who is ASD-qualified (that really won't go down well).

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My sons one to one certainly has no formal qualifications, but she has built such a rapport and trust with our son that the work she has done in the last 18 months has been invaluable. We will be sorry when he goes up to preschool and loses her as his TA

 

Although qualifications are important, I think that the relationship that they have with your child is just as important. Its my belief you can have all the qualifications in the world, but if your child can not get on with them then whats the point?

 

This is an interesting question, and I will follow the answers. My son has full time one to one from September and we still dont know who this will be. I know that its one of the existing TAs at the school, but again not what qualifications they have. I am interested how this is looked at. As i feel its who the school are comfortable with and have worked with, rather than the best qualified

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LancsLad   

Would like to make a few general comments if I may. I am doing so because this is a post which might be followed by a lot of parental frustration as a result of experiences with individual schools and potentialy teachers and teaching assistants. I am not trying to stop such posts but rather to balance the discussion.

 

I understand that there is a natural desire to for many people to want the very best provision for their son or daughter, and this include the adults who come into contact with them, but I do beleive there needs to be a level of reasonable expectations brought into the thought process.

 

To use an analogy if I may if we were only allowed to support our local football team some of us might be fortunate enough to be born in East Manchester, and as such Manchester City would be our default team. For the majority of us we might be left with a team from the lower leauges and as such we can not expect to see the very best international players every Saturday afternoon. I think a more realistic expectation would be to have a team with a solid and knowledgeable manager who sends them out to play reasonably attractive football. Some weeks the team might win others they loose and if at the end of the season they are not in a relegation battle we consider ourselves lucky.

 

I would describe my partner as a pretty experienced and solid SENCO. She likewise needs to work to a budget. She can not have a massive squad of superstars who are specialists in every position, rather she has to go for a balanced and well rounded and importantly adaptable team of players. These players have to be able to deal with all sorts of children all with very different individual needs. As a resposible manager she has to plan for the future and that means bringing in new people and developing their abilities over time. There needs to be a mix of youthfull energy and experience in every team, as such there are bound to be compromises.

 

The landscape in respect to qualifications is changing constantly and we need to ask is it a true reflection of the abilities of teachers and TA's. I offer up this scenario to raise a few thoughts. My partner has two TA's in her team. One has been working with her for say 10 years and as such has seen a lot of children in her time and really enjoys working with individuals with ASD. There is also a new TA who has been there a year and my partner knows that she wants to match this TA with a child with ASD. She has one ASD child who has very complex needs and so she allocates the experienced TA to that child. In respect to the newly qualified TA she decides to use her limited resources and sends them on a short course which leads to a qualification related to ASD, she then allocates that TA an ASD child who has lesser needs as a way to give them experience and to manage her own responsibilities of meeting needs. Are her actions reasonable? If the older more experienced TA does not want to move on because they feel their experience is respected and well used, then I suspect they would be more than happy for somene else to boost their CV. It might be the case this young TA moves on from mainstream into a specialist school the year after, there is nothing my partner can do about that, rather she replaces them if the budget allows and does the job to the best of her ability. The young TA might even claim to be the ASD specialist from this mainstream school!

 

I raise this scenario to simply ask the question at what level should our expectations be at regarding experience and qualifications of staff? In many ways if you have the money and can afford a private box to watch Manchester City next season then go for it. For most of us we need to be more realistic and reaslise there are a few clubs around us who might we choose to support. Parents have choice, the system is not perfect, I did not want to send my own son to one of my local faith schools, nor were we able to get him into my partners school, as a result we had to go for a small primary which had spaces which is many miles away from our home. There are good things about the school, and there are bad things, in football terms they are very mid table lower league stuff but we have decided to support them for his primary years and play the part of the dedicated fan. My son thinks its a great school so we agree with him though he has nothing to compare it to. He is doing well.

 

I know my partner and her school in respect to special needs provision is highly respected. It gets outstanding comments when it gets inspected. She is used as a mentor by local training colleges and is often asked to lecture to students on teacher training courses. Because of national changes to qualifications she was fortunate that her union agreed to pay for her to undertake a part time course with a university to update her qualifications at postgraduate level. If the union had not paid we could not have afforded the course nor would her headtecher have allowed her the days off to go to some of the key sessions. But it is also not about her it is about the team she oversees. Some of those individuals hold qualifications some might not at the same level, but they are 'all' qualified to be in contact with children. Some have more experience than others and that is a factor but not the only one. My partner does not run a machine in a scientific laboratory, she is in the people bussiness and she would say that creating good working partnership between adults and children is key to success. She also has to understand that one particular child can never be more important than any other, rather it is about what thier individual needs are at anyone time.

 

What greatly saddens me is when she comes home some nights and looks deflated. When I ask her 'whats up love' it is always the same response, its never about kids, always parents. I think as parents once we have decided which team to follow we have a level of duty to support the manager. I feel there are too many so called fans out there that when a team has a bad run of a couple of games they start to shout abuse, single out individual players, demand a change in tactics, and go on radio phone ins asking for heads to roll. Such behaviours might make them feel better but are they constructive?

 

Bed32 all I am trying to do in this post is highlight from a personal perspective what elements might be at play in a complex scenario. In some ways the headteacher and governors of a school are in the position of making appointments in respect to teachers and TA's. They can only appoint individuals from those who applied for the job in the first place. If no one is suitably qualified they will re-advertise though I would agree under some school set ups anyone can be employed in certain roles given a police clearance certificate. At times they might come to a conclusion that an individual is not what they thought they might be, but that is life. As parents it is not easy for us to relate to a bigger picture in respect to the needs of all the children in the school, we do tend a lot of the time to be focused on our own child.

 

My last point is this. In my experience of managing teams both in education and in sport when individuals are confident they perform to the best of their abilities and we can ask no more of them than this. Confidence is an easy thing to destroy. A lot of what my partner does after school in meeting parents is acting as a buffer to absorb their frustrations and anger. Its akin to getting questions about your own position in a press conference after every match. If these parents could get close to teachers and TA's often they would destroy their confidence and as such greatly impact on their chance of performing to the best of their abilities the next day. At times she finds these parental exchanges draining, and at times her own self belief and confidence wanes. I try my best to pick her up, point out in objective ways all she and her colleauges have achieved over the years, brush her down and wish her well the next day. Because of unrealistic expectations from fans and owners football in this country is currently being smashed appart, I hope a similar scenario does not happen in the education sector as there are a lot of very good people who work in it, and who have a track record over many seasons of delivering results, there is also some outstanding potential in young staff, but they have a bad game now and again thats the nature of potential, call me nostalgic but some values are worth retaining.

 

Just a few thoughts.

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Sally44   

Remember that the Statement is about identifying 'need' and quantifying and specifying the provision to meet that need in terms of 'hours' and 'staffing arranagements' and 'therapy input'.

 

At my son's school [which is independent ASD specific], all the class teachers have a post graduate qualifications specifically relating to autism. And the school has continual training and staff members have to complete certain modules each year.

 

Many of the TAs are also qualified to degree standard. Some specifically with an autism specific degree, or a psychology degree.

 

The therapists have also undergone specific training eg. the OT has completed all of the Sensory Integration modules that she MUST have completed before she can deliver a pure sensory integration programme.

 

And the dyslexia teacher is qualified to level 7, which means she is qualified to both teach and assess. And you need the specialist teacher to be able to assess to identify areas of difficulty and also to assess progress.

 

There is little point asking for something that cannot be provided at the current placement. Realistically they are not going to employ a teacher with an additional ASD qualification if there is no-one within the current school that has that qualification.

 

What you would be arguing is that your child 'needs' his teacher to have such a qualification and his current placement cannot provide that and therefore the parental choice of school xxxxx is the ONLY ONE that can meet his needs.

 

If you are not at that stage, then you simply need to know what qualifications the teaching and TA staff have. What the school's continuing training involves regarding ASD specific training and is that training compulsory on the staff to attend.

 

If no-one within the school has an ASD post grad qualification, then you need to ask the LA specialist teaching services if anyone within their service has such a qualification [and often they don't].

 

So you will probably find that the school cannot get access to any specialist teaching input.

 

Remember that the Statement is about needs/provision and that IF a school or the NHS cannot supply the provision for the proven need, the LA HAS TO FUND IT. There is no monetary limit to what a Statement can provide. That is the system currently.

 

If your child needs a teacher or specialist teaching advice, or a qualified TA, then that is what the Statement shoudl say. Then if the school does not have it, and the LA does not have that expertise wtihin their specialist teaching department the LA MUST BUY IT IN.

 

In that scenario you would want that level of qualification, or specialist teaching input included in the Statement. It might say something like that person will go into school [say in October and February] to work with the class teacher on how the curriculum will be delivered and differentiated for that child. They may need to train the teacher in the TEACCH approach. And they may need to train up the TA [who realistically is the main person involved with the child in mainstream].

 

And that is it in mainstream. It isn't a specialist or special school. It is mainstream and the expectation is that most of the children will be able to access learning in the way that it is currently delivered. There can be reasonable adjustments, and if the child can cope mainstream, then you would push for the above to be in the Statement. But if that is not working, then you need to look at other schooling options.

 

For example, if your child has sensory issues and the OT provides you with some exercises to do at home - is that a sensory integration programme - no it isn't. Will it meet the child's needs - probably not. But the NHS does not fund sensory integration therapy - which you need to get confirmed in writing. Then you need a report that states your child does have a sensory processing disorder and needs a 'pure' sensory integration programme. And then you get that need in part 2 and the provision in part 3. The LA can buy that in. Or again you are arguing that your child needs the ASD specific school for the small class sizes, peer group, specialist teaching, specialist therapy etc.

 

An increase in the level of support, therapy, specalist placement always depends on how the 'current level' is working and producing progress. If you can prove that that is not happening, then at the AR you ask for additional support, or a move to a different placement - or if things really deteriorate you ask for an emergency review etc.

 

And although it is not really feasible to get all that into a mainstream school - if you have the evidence and go to an Appeal you will be surprised at what the LA will suddenly offer. In our case, about a month before the Appeal, our LA gave funding to his current school for xx hours per term of OT input to meet my sons sensory needs. We reminded the Tribunal Panel that this referal to the OT still required the school to refer due to concerns they had - and that my son's school had never had any concerns and had never referred him to anyone. We also said that the OT was not suitably qualified and had not completed the sensory modules needed to be qualified and experienced to deliver a pure sensory integration programme.

 

So, IMO, there is no point paying for independent reports that recommend something that you don't get into the Statement, or you get into the Statement and are then happy to receive something less than that.

 

I understand what you are saying about relationships. And that you don't want to lose a good TA. But professionals qualified and experienced in ASD are going to be able to meet his needs because they know what they are doing.

 

You could play dumb, and just leave it in the Statement, but not seek for it to be complied with. Then if things go downhill, or that TA is removed you could ask that they fulfill the Statement. But don't get stuck on 'one person'. Your child is going to meet a number of professionals throughout his educational life.

 

Remember that the Statement is about getting a 'satisfactory or adequate education' not the BEST. So if your child needs it they should receive it - not because they deserve the best - but because without it they won't access learning and may not even be in school or may become so anxious that they are in no fit state to learn.

 

If your child is in a mainstream school and coping with little support that is because they don't need anything additional. You have to prove need. And if you prove need, regardless of how 'nice' a certain person maybe, if they don't get it and don't meet the child's needs you will soon find that out.

 

Yes an unqualified TA maybe able to support your son. But is that part of a cohesive learning and therapy team where there is written evidence your child is making progress. Or is it a good TA supporting him within a school and learning approaches that he cannot access or cope with and where there is no evidence of progress in any area [academic, social, speech and language, emotional, behavioural, sensory]?

 

Then you see if your child makes progress. If they don't, that may be specifically because the staff are not trained.

Edited by Sally44

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bed32   

There are two aspects to his school life that require specialist help.

 

Firstly just coping with the environment - the particular issue at the moment is that no one arround him really understands the impact of Autism. I get very frustrated about being told time and again about another "incident" at school which would not have happened had there been an Autism-trained resource on hand. To someone who understands Autism, our son is very predictable and I believe he would be much happier, and have fewer (in fact no) incidents, if someone who understands the basics of Autism were on hand all the time. Even the LA agrees with this an it will be in the statement when it is finalised in a couple of weeks.

 

The second is the much harder issue. It is clear that there are many key skills that he is incapable of picking up on his own as other children do. He needs to be taught about emotions, how to manage is anxieties, how to interact with his peers and so on - and also the most basic skills for problem solving and managing his life. That won't happen without expert input that is not in place at the moment.

 

The dilemma is that his present (part time) TA is building a good relationship and has the right character to get on well with him. But if we rely on him alone (at least without more training) then it is going to be all about just managing him in school rather than actively teaching him the skills he needs.

 

At present there is no way he can be considered for a mainstream secondary school - in fact we think the LA will propose transfering him to a specialist primary school next term. Without intensive help over the next couple of years MS secondary is not an option, and TBH I am not sure that it would be even with the best help available, but we really ought to at least give it a go as I believe MS (probably with ASD unit) is both best for him and vastly cheaper for the LA than the alternatives

 

Lancs Lad - I am posting about my son who is Autistic and clearly so. This is not about a child who is able to cope in a mainstream environment so if you are thinking from the perspective of someone with a Mild Autism, or even AS that may not even be detected diagnosed until 12 or even later (I have a nephew like that) then you are totally missing the point.

 

An Autistic child finds EVERY aspect of mainstream education confusing and stressful and many can't cope. Lack of appropriate provision means that our son is effectively being excluded from education all together. Partly because he is being sent out of the class frequently, and partly because even if he is physically present in the class room he still does not take in what is going one due to a range of sensory, communication and social reasons. This is not about us wanting the best for our son, it is about his right to get an education at all.

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LancsLad   

Bed32 appologies if I have misread your post, why would you say 'clearly so'?

 

My partner who runs a specialist unit has a lot of children in her Primary 2 form entry mainstream environment who have full statements many of them requiring 15 hours provision. Some of those children are classified on the autistic spectrum. I felt your post was about statements, teachers and TA's and was written in a way that general comments might have been welcomed. Sorry if I did totally miss the point.

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bed32   

Clearly so in the sense that he is well over all the criteria for Autism (as opposed to say AS) on all the diagnostic scales. Also anyone with any knowledge of the area picks up on his autism within 5 minutes of meeting him, and this has been clear since age 3. In contrast it was a bit of a shock for us when one of his cousins (much older) was diagnosed as Aspergers at the age of 12.

 

This is not a child who can cope in school with only 15 hours provision - everyone agrees that he needs both full time TA and a lot of additional therapy on top.

 

Many people with AS or less severe Autism (and of course we now know a lot of them) cope adequately in Mainstream - albeit they often feel like the odd one out and are likely to underperform without support. For children like that then clearly inclusion with support is a very good option.

 

Just to make it clear - I am in no way underestimating the challenges faced by all people "on the spectrum" at all stages of education and life - but it is not a "one size fits all" condition and it is very difficult to try to generalise about appropriate provision.

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LancsLad   

Bed32 I am not questioning anything about you child.

 

My point is how did I know from your original post that you only wanted responses from people in respect to specialist school environments, and that any comments related to mainstream provision including attatched specialist units were not required. As someone with AS I read every post and try and get the point before I post my own thoughts. It is natural given my condition that I may not get this right from time to time. When people tell me I have got it wrong 'you are totally missing the point' I go back and question what I have done wrong so I can learn from my mistakes?

 

In this instance I went back to your origonal post and could not read the clues which were in there to say 'this is only about provision in specialist schools, not about mainstream'. Your subsequent post seems to imply that I am questioning individual circumstances around your child and the school in which your child is placed, I just wanted to clarify I am not

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Lynden   

Whilst I agree in part with you LancsLad about 'supporting the team' - your partner seems like a very good SENCO. A lot that we hear about through work aren't as proactive and staff have little or no knowledge about ASD. That's not to say they don't want to have, or aren't willing to learn. I think parents have a right to fight for the best provision for their children if it isn't being provided. I'm not suggesting it should be perfect, that doesn't exist, but it should be as good as it can and meet the needs of that child. If parents don't fight for their child - who will? Especially in cases of ASD where many children don't have a voice in reality.

 

We're lucky in that my sons school is excellent - and I've never had to complain or fight - but I would if I needed to, because he can't.

 

Bed32 - there is no specific qualification for staff, although there is a lot of autism awareness training out there. Certainly we've had TAs with little knowledge come on some of our courses. If you have a good personality match in his current TA, and the school are willing to provide him with some ASD training then I'd be inclined to stick with the current TA.

 

Edited to add if he is being tranfserred to a specialist provision then your worries about a TA will be unfounded as they *should* all have a higher level of autism awareness and I'd expect at least some of the staff to have Postgraduate ASD qualifications (such as the one I'm doing currently MEd Special Ed Autism Studies (children)).

 

Lynne

Edited by Lynden

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bed32   

Sorry LancsLad - I was trying to avoid the MS / Specialist issue in the original post as it is to some extent irrelevant,

 

The requirement of the statement is to specify what he needs to obtain a basic education - and only once that is agreed should we consider the best environment in which to provide that.

 

As parents we have little control over who the LA/school choose to employ - the only leverage we have is that they must comply with the statement, and so it is important that the statement is specific in requiring qualifications and/or experience. So although in many cases I know there are excellent ASD teachers without formal qualifications, it is important that we as parents retain the right to reject provision that doesn't comply with the statement.

 

So looking forward over the next 6 months the matter of qualifications may become important for two reasons

(a) when assessing provision within his current placement, whether the resources proposed by the LA/school are appropriate

(B) When considering alternative placement, whether the staff at the school are suitably qualified - this is particularly important at the moment as we are being asked to consider a school that does not yet exist and in that case the qualifications and experience of the staff are about all we really have to go on

 

 

Lynden - yes we would like to stick with the current TA if possible, but getting the right balance of skills and experience across the range of professionals involved is a delicate balancing act. Hence the question as to whether it is feasible to obtain a reasonable level of ASD training in a short period of time - I certainly mean more than the one day Autism awareness courses.

 

What is critically missing from his education at the moment is professional advice from someone who understands autism and can provide guidance as to what the school should be doing on a day-to-day basis - I think it needs an Autism expert to have regular oversight of his progress and to advise on appropriate strategies on a regular basis

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Sally44   

I think you've probably hit the nail on the head - and was our thinking at the time.

 

IE. is the support in mainstream just 'managing' him, rather than actually improving things or teaching him things or him making progress.

 

Towards the end they were not even managing him and he was out of school for about a year.

 

It also depends on age, and cognitive ability. Your options are:-

 

Mainstream

Unit attached to mainstream - and still fed through to mainstream [could he cope with that environment, the transfer/transition, the change in peers/environment for those occasions he is fed across?]

Special School - is he too cognitively able - too severe social communication difficulties [as opposed to just MLD]

Independent ASD specific - similar peer group - small classes - low arousal environment - specialist teachers - specialist therapy.

 

Those are the only options. We tried mainstream with additional support. Our son was not suitable for an autism unit or special school simply because of the peer group. If the peer group in the autism unit has been similar - with suitably qualified teachers, that might have been appropriate as long as he stayed in the unit for teaching.

 

But all LAs have too many children for the places. So obviously the most severe children [non-verbal, challenging behaviours] take up the 'special' and 'unit' places.

 

You know the best time to seek a change of placement is at transfer to secondary. In some cases, like ours, that break down earlier, you can get an immediate transfer during year 6 [if the independent school has a suitable peer group/class available].

 

You have to decide. You may try what is on offer to see how that goes. If it fails you have that as your evidence. We could prove that our son's current placement had broken down. We could prove [and the school/LA agreed that the Unit and Special school were not appropriate]. So we were only left with one option. And that is the stage you have to be at, because IF there is another untried/cheaper option the Tribunal Panel may agree with the LA - unless you have independent reports/independent expert witnesses, independent school Deputy Head etc to really fight for your case on the day.

 

The placement my son has, and the therapy he receives is the very minimum he needs to cope. We are currently going through a very bad patch of OCD and I am wrestling with thoughts that we cannot cope with him anymore and I know that in the near future he will need to go residential/boarding. And I know that that isn't going to happen until i've probably had a breakdown! Which somedays doesn't seem that far away.

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Sally44   

And regarding 'relevent qualifications'. That is how we ended up getting additional specialist teaching from a dyslexia teacher qualified to level 7 on top of the Independent School placement. The Independent school could not meet that need, and so we had to factor that in - and the Tribunal Panel agreed that my son needed it.

 

The school and LA specialist teaching services had no-one with an addtional ASD or Dyslexia specific qualification. My son is diagnosed with severe dyslexia and dyscalculia. As he had identified that need, we had to include provision to meet that need.

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bed32   

At present they are certainly only managing him - and in fact not even that as things are getting worse rather than better (but not dramatically so). Even when we get the hours increased through the statement, if the same personnel and strategies are used then it won't really make a whole lot of difference. It will be easier for the school but not necessarily better for him.

 

Our problem is that there is not even a particularly attractive independent option for this age. We have looked at some schools that we would consider yr7+ and while we like a couple of them (and they will take children from Yr4) they are all some distance away and so would require either a long taxi (1hr+) either way or boarding, neither of which we particularly like.

 

At primary I am sure he could cope with good ASD provision within a Mainstream environment (probably not a unit in MS as they tend to be MLD at that level) and that is beginning to seem like the most attractive short term option - unfortunately I haven't found a suitable school so far

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Sally44   

Then your best option maybe to get the Statement as good as you can for where he is and monitor it. If he deteriorates then that works in your favour.

 

Unfortunately, if you are looking at an Independent ASD specific option, you usually need to have the child out of school for some time to prove that no other option has or could work. So you don't really have much option other than to keep him where he is and watch is fall apart [if it does]. And if it does that your evidence to get the placement you think is suitable in a 1-2 years time.

 

Believe me, in 2009 we NEVER thought our son would become so ill. We thought he would remain mainstream with support. But he was out of school for the whole of 2011.

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bed32   

I think we will have no problem challenging a Mainstream placement - no one (including the LA EP) think that that is the right environment for him. What will be more tricky is justifying an independent specialist Aspergers school over a more general Special school, or ASD school.

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kazjam   

I will probably get some stick for this ....but I think the introduction of TAs has been a bad idea for education and will lead to a lowering of standards. Putting aside conditions, asd etc etc. the main reason I child is at school is to get the education....basic maths, english etc.....then other subjects....to reach the best of their potential. I think any other reasons for being there...eg. socialising, mixing, additional subjects, pe etc etc are only incidental to why a child is at school.

 

TAs do not need the same qualifications as a teacher....have not had the same training.....and have not gained the same level of expertise. Yet in many schools they are taking the class. When teachers are ill or on courses they often do the planning and leave a TA in charge. A cost cutting excerise.

 

My brother is a qualified teacher of many years experience and has on many occasions asked a TA to take off a group of children...and they have come back to him to say they don't understand themselves how to do parts of the work. He can then waste time showing the TA.

 

Yes a TA may be able to cope with 99% of what they are asked to do......but the 1% they don't know and will never realise the significance of due to lack of qualifications and training could be the 1% that will have a detrimental effect on a child.

 

Its like going to the hospital for an operation....the doctor is ill......so the nurse does the operation instead. I think they are a dreadful idea.

 

I think the same applies with people teaching ASD children and those with statements. It is basically take pot luck. My son has had an excellent TA and then a useless one. I think a better idea would be to keep the well qualified teachers and then have an expert to help alongside the teacher with these children......someone with proper medical training and not necessarily any teaching expertise.....someone with perhaps psychological background.

 

Education is so important for every child and for the future of this country. It makes me very sad to see the way TAs are being used more and more. We should stick to properly qualified teachers and people who are qualified to know what they are doing with children who have conditions.I hear the analogy with football teams but to me this is a childs life and so much more important. It only needs one TA without the proper knowledge .......who misses something.....or makes a mistake due to lack of knowledge.............to set a child back years.

 

I am speaking from experience. I believe the actions of a TA lead to my sons school refusal for many months.

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Sally44   

I'm not going to argue about the general usefulness or not of TAs. But what I do know is that the most vulnerable children, with the most needs, spend the most time with a TA. When I spoke to one of my daughters science teachers about it [she is NT and has no SEN and is doing very well academically], he said that his role was to stretch the most capable children and the TA's job was to babysit those that should not even be in the class! He did not know I had a son with SEN. But, as unpolitically correct as it was, that is probably the majority view behind closed doors. But to our faces they, when they know we have a child with SEN, they say something totally different.

 

I don't agree that 'social skills' are not just as vital as academic skills. There are many adults with an ASD who have degrees, and yet still cannot get a job because of their lack of social skills.

 

What I do think is that mainstream should stop pretending to be able to meet everyones needs. They can't. I think there should be separate schools with much smaller class sizes for those children with specific difficulties such as ASD, dyslexia, dyspraxia etc who benefit from similar approaches and therapies.

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chris54   

It is only in State school that there is a requirement for teachers to be qualified. Independent school, academies and free school can employ "Teachers" who are not hold a teaching qualification.

 

Having a teaching qualifications on its own, does not make you a good teacher, and certainly does not give you all that is required to meet all the challenges that Autism's present. In my experience it is often the experience TA who guides the less experienced teacher.

 

I would agree that in some instances, TA are used for who class teaching in place of teachers, which is wrong.

But, if I step back and look, I would see that that a large part of the time my son is at school, it is the TAs that he is interacting with. Would it make any difference to him if the person who helps him with his cookery is a TA or teacher. The 1 to 1 he has in PE, TA or Teacher?. The person who runs the lunch time club? The homework club?

I personally think, at my sons school, at the present time, for him, the balances is right.

 

And yes there are many instances of children being little more than babysat when at school, but who is to blame for that. The TA? The teacher? The school? The LA? The system?.

 

It is realy down to how a school is run and how they use there resources that can makes the difference.

 

If all the TA in a school, which at primary level often outnumber the teachers, where replaced with qualified teachers, we would need to finance the education system to a much higher level, at the end of the day, as they say, some one, us, the tax payer would have to foot the bill.

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LancsLad   

In trying to make a few general points regarding TA's here are my thoughts.

 

When I was teaching as a highly experience head of technology in a very large mainstream specialist college I found TA's to be invaluable and a massive addition to the school. I would see an individual child in years 7 to 9 because of rotation systems for possibly 16 sessions a year. Very often I would have no previous experience of these pupils. My primary concern as a classroom teacher was to make the curriculum accesible for all the students and allow for differentiated outcomes which enabled each individual to reach their potential in respect to assessment criteria in that time. What TA's brought to the scenario was often a great deal of knowledge about individuals and what made them tick and what approaches tended to work best for them. My responsibility was to take this advice on board and balance it aginst the needs of all the other children in the group.

 

Speaking at a personal level I found having children with identified needs and sometimes supporting TA's in the room with me was a refreshing experience and one which often fed another dimension into my teaching which was to the benefit of all concerned. I have to be honest here and say a lot of teachers often would not share my thinking.

 

I think in far too many cases the belief of many teachers is that they simply teach as if the special needs kid were no different from the other pupils and it is the responsibility of the TA to act as some sort of translator or facilitator of learning to make up any shortcomings the child might have. I also know from experience that at the end of a lesson if I was to ask a TA who has no specialist knowledge of my subject how they think I could have imporved my own performance many would feel very uncomfortable in passing comment. The fact they do so I feel is a sad reflection on how they are generally treated.

 

I know that in my carrer I developed some very good working relationships with TA's. I can think of many times of them coming to me at the end of the school day asking what we will be doing the following day so they could think about ideas with me as to how best to approach lessons. This was a team effort and we would bounce ideas around. What I found is that often these ideas are so good that they should not be reserved for one or two kids but adopted for the whole group. As a result TA's helped to make me a better teacher. I can also think of a few TA's who would do their own practical work alongside the children, would bring in ingredients if they were in food technology lessons to cook alongside them and I have even had homeworks handed in by them for marking, all setting a fantastic example to other individuals. I know of one TA who supported a pupil in years 10 and 11 and entered GCSE Textiles alongside them, the work they did in their own time and achieved a grade 'A', now thats dedication to the cause, the pupil got a grade 'B'.

 

TA's are not teachers, though many decide to gain teaching qualifications and undertake a different role in the education system. Just as nurses are not docotors and vice versa, both have significant roles to play in the classroom. I do have concerns that the importance of a teaching qulification is being devalued. I spent 4 hard years gaining a B.Ed (Hons) before I even started my first post and that time afforded me space to develop my own understanding of education in broad terms. I believe current trends are leading to a very narrow minded and shallow focus in the system. I see the issues around TA's as something very different and they should be seen as an independent and important part of the education system. My own worries are that due to funding pressures the role of the TA is being put under pressure in much the same way as community support officers. Both in theory are really good ideas but their roles have not been fully supported and developed to the point where they are really working well in the majority of situations. Chris is right to question who is to blme for that, personally I feel it is another case of a political idea which has not been carried through with the right amount of focus and resources behind it.

 

Just a few thoughts.

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It is difficult to generalise as schools differ so much and the role of the TA has changed so much. When I was a SEN Governor I campaigned for our TA posts to be advertised properly so we could get the best people - not just giving the post to someone's Mum because they were known to the school. If the TAs don't have a reasonable grasp of Maths and English it can cause lots of problems.

 

In the school I worked in, half of the TAs had degrees - the school took advantage of well qualifed people wanting to work school hours. Some TAs were better qualified in certain subjects than the teachers.

 

As to "ASD qualifications" - I had a psychology degree and 15 years experience of living with two children with differing levels of ASD, had been to many talks and conferences (including one by Tony Attwood), but I did not have a LA recognised ASD qualification. I did later attend two twilight training sessions on ASD and a two day SEN course. Although they barely scratched the surface, they were recognised qualifications. Which would make a better TA?

 

TAs and Teachers are supposed to work with all the chidlren - the SEN chidlren need the teacher as much as the more able.

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bed32   

In general I think TAs in primary schools are a good thing - they increase the amount of time that can be spent 1-1 with each pupil and in our experience they actually tend to be very good. When I was in primary school we had 1 teacher for a class of up to 40 children - so the modern style of 2 adults between 30 much be better - all other things being equal.

 

In fact in the case of our ASD son, the TA that helps him is much better than the class teacher and much better at building a rapport with him (and I imagine the other pupils in the class).

 

Although I don't know what's out there (hence the thread) I would have thought that even a basic level useful ASD qualification would require something of the order of 100-200 hours training (plus assignments) and that for someone to take a leading responsibility for the education would require something equivalent to a 1 year course.

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chris54   

When I was in primary school we had 1 teacher for a class of up to 40 children

 

You lucky B-----d. In my day it was 1 to 47.

 

There was a fixed number of classes (the size of the building) and the school just had to take all the children from its catchment and that was it.

 

When My Dad went to school (The same school) if all the children turned up there were not enough desks and chairs for them. So for him I was the lucky B-----d.

 

When I went up to secondary school the class sizes were about 30, which was considered small.

 

At my sons first school the the class sizes were all under 20 with a TA, his reception class was about 15.

 

At his present secondary school the class sizes average about 22.

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chris54   

My work sent me on an autism awareness course, It was a 1 day course, it counts as a qualification. As you can imagine I knew more that the people running the course.

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bed32   

My work sent me on an autism awareness course, It was a 1 day course, it counts as a qualification. As you can imagine I knew more that the people running the course.

The school my son is at sent the entire staff on a 1 day autism awareness course. That can barely start introducing the issues, let alone solutions. They continue to make the same fundamental mistakes in spite of the course, and having almost 5 years experience with our son, let alone other ASD-diagnosed children in the school.

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Canopus   

I have discussed this subject at AS support groups many times. Concerns were raised by parents that far too many primary school teachers now have academic qualifications far above or irrelevant to the subjects that they teach - like degrees in media studies or foreign languages - whilst at the same time they lack knowledge of SEN. It would be much better for them and the kids the teachers got their GCSEs then went to training college and the time they spent in higher education was spent learning about SEN instead. My reply was that there is a lack of good courses about ASD and it can only be properly understood in a hands on setting. This is why the situation regarding knowledge is very ad hoc with many of the teachers who are more experienced and knowledgeable about ASD lacking formal qualifications whilst many teachers who have SEN qualifications lack knowledge of ASD. Unfortunately the state school system has a tickbox mentality and fails to effectively consider practical experience such as working in an AS support group at the time of applying for a job.

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chris54   

One of my sisters started out as a nurse, got disillusioned with the job and when her children got older she did an access course and trained as a teacher. She never did anymore than GCSE's and realy struggled to get maths. She is restricted to teaching up to KS3. But she is now considered one of the more able if not the most paid teachers at her school.

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Sally44   

I think that having discussed this subject quite thoroughly. The OP needs to remember and consider that IF the child has a Statment and IF they end up going to appeal to SEND, that the SEND Panel will be looking for "suitably qualified" people to deliver certain aspects of the Statement.

 

For example, the Panel wanted to know the specifics of WHO would teach my son regarding his dyslexia. They wanted to know the hours recommended [which were actually more than we asked for because we felt, at the time, that as my son was not even in school it was too soon to specify more hours], and they also agreed that that person had to be qualified to both teach and assess.

 

If a 'standard' teacher cannot assess a child with dyslexia, you need the specialist teacher to be able to do so, because you have to be able to assess the effectiveness of the approaches or strategies you are using.

 

And as the independent school did not have any teachers with an additionalSpLD Qualification, they immediately recognised that the independent school "could not meet all his needs, as detailed in the Statement."

 

[And it has been covered in other posts where a parent has sought an independent placement, and been granted that placement by SEND, and then the independent school has turned around and said that they cannot provide for 'X' need within their fees.

 

And we could not have just accepted the teachers at this independent school could meet his needs [eventhough they were even more qualified than at his mainstream school], simply because the LA could turn around and say "what is the difference if the independent school teachers and the maintained school teachers both do not have a SpLD qualification." So we really had to make sure we covered every eventuality.

 

So, regardless of how good an unqualified TA may be - at SEND they are looking for provision to be much more specific than a school or LA would be.

Edited by Sally44

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