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Assisting the assistants

A pilot CPD project for primary teaching assistants shows that TAs appreciate and benefit from science specific CPD.

Published: 17 June 2024

Lead by Ogden Regional Rep Sally Fulford, the Ogden Trust’s Teaching Assistant (TA) Network pilot project began in May 2023 and has recently concluded. The initiative explored how to effectively support primary TAs in providing inclusive physics learning experiences for young scientists. The pilot project ran across Ogden partnerships in the Southwest with 47 TAs signing up from 18 different schools in the region. 

Along with regular newsletters, TAs in the Network were invited to attend a series of six half-termly professional development webinars, each taking place on Wednesday afternoons. Sessions covered a range of topics including working scientifically, questioning, recording learning, misconceptions, enhancing TAs subject knowledge and supporting pupils as they learn to measure and work with data. 

The project demonstrated that professional development support for TAs is invaluable and can make a positive difference to removing barriers for pupils in the classroom. However, it also highlighted the challenges of trying to provide CPD for classroom TAs.  

A group of primary students, standing outside in the fields, all holding hands together with the teacher in the midde.

“We think that this type of professional development would be a great programme for subject leaders to provide for their TAs within their own schools, enabling flexibility around the demands of school life so that the learning can be made accessible for all TAs in the team,” says Sally. “This approach would also have the added benefits of being focused on the specific needs of the school community, being more focused on expected impact in the classroom with monitoring systems in place to ensure implementation and success,” she concludes. 

In the pilot, attendance varied significantly across the sessions, and despite the best intentions and enthusiasm of those signed-up, schools were often unable to release TAs from the classroom. The vital role of TAs in leading essential intervention groups and being first aid providers is a limiting factor in their own professional development, as too is access to IT facilities which makes it challenging for TAs to join webinars, engage with online learning communities and receive emails to keep up to date.

Lessons learnt 

The pilot revealed that TAs appreciate and benefit from science specific CPD to help them better support their pupils. During the pilot the network explored many valuable resources that can build TAs confidence and skills to best support inclusive physics learning experiences for young scientists. We asked TAs in the Network what were the most valuable things that they took from their CPD sessions, the five most valued resources are listed below. Perhaps your TAs would also find them useful too? 

Top 5 resources TAs find useful for supporting primary science: 

  1. Working scientifically Tools: Useful tools for supporting pupils when working scientifically such as Question Makers and Conclusion Creators from the Great Science Share for Schools – Great Science Skills. 
  1. Developing TA subject knowledge: Valuable online courses to develop subject knowledge and help build confidence in supporting pupils with their science learning – Reach Out CPD. 
  1. Strategies for one-to-one support: Great ideas for out of classroom practical science activities for SEND pupils that encourage scientific thinking and problem solving while developing a range of transferable skills – Science in my pocket. 
  1. Ideas for adapting lessons: Strategies for adapting science activities in the classroom to better support SEND pupils – Science for All and Inclusive practices for primary science 
  1. Recognising and addressing common misconceptions: Diagnostic questions to help identify and address common misconceptions in primary science – BEST Evidence Science Teaching 7-11 and Understanding Children’s Ideas in Science 

 

 


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