Gabriel Calwell, Director of Teaching and Learning, at Bedford High School explains why it could well be your Teaching Assistants.

With Teaching & Learning at the heart of our school, we provide a range of initiatives and CPD programmes, the OTP included, to our teachers and leaders. However, one crucial sector of our teaching staff has often gone under utilised and therefore unwittingly, undervalued. This all changed with the introduction of the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Programme (OTAP).

The OTAP has proved to be the key to building a better more constructive working relationship between teaching assistant (TA) and teacher. Each has knowledge and skills to share. However, the TAs often have a better understanding of what makes the pupil tick. This can enable them to engage the pupil in a way which makes learning more meaningful and support the teacher to achieve learning outcomes.

We have been overwhelmed by the success of the OTAP this year. Our teaching assistants loved the programme and felt fully refreshed, enriched and valued. The programme has enabled them to reflect on their practice, appreciate and collaborate with other teaching assistants and challenge them to be even better.

As a consequence, our teaching assistants are now much more involved and engaged in the Teaching and Learning initiatives and CPD in school. They have spoken of how much more confident they are in their communication with teachers, and recognise the need to keep the communication regular and purposeful.

Overall I was impressed that the OTAP was able to extract the many qualities that our teaching assistants bring to the table. I certainly underestimated their ability to handle with competence the pedagogical themes of the programme. Their strengths, ideas and viewpoints, which were previously unheard, now had a forum and we have taken many of their ideas and initiatives on board.

The programme has allowed me to see that what I am doing as a TA has a profound impact on a student’s learning. It has given me a deeper pride in my role and the motivation to continue to strive for better.

OTAP Delegate, Bedford High School