Does a 1:1 teaching assistant remove independence?

One-to-one support can seem ideal for a child with SEND, but over the long term it could cause independence issues

Ginny Bootman

SEND: Why one-to-one support has to be planned carefully

The role of the teaching assistant in the life of a child with additional needs is quite a tightrope. 

Whether to have one specific teaching assistant working with a child, as opposed to having a number of teaching assistants, is a discussion I have had numerous times.

In my experience, when I have had a one-to-one teaching assistant, I allowed them to use their initiative and experience to build a solid bond with the children – and parents, too.

This usually panned out really well, with pupils moving on to secondary school successfully through a carefully planned transition programme.

There are, however, times when the position of a one-to-one teaching assistant is better split between different members of staff. 

SEND support

This was first brought to my attention a while ago when a visiting outside agent pointed out to me that we should be encouraging "independence not dependence".

This really struck a chord with me. 

I realised that previously I had inadvertently allowed children to become too dependent on their one-to-one support, with the unfortunate result that when the teaching assistant was off, the child became quite distressed as they missed them so much. 

It made me realise I needed to rethink the way that support was being given – whether one-to-one or from a mix of support staff – because there is no one size fits all.

It is important to gauge the needs of each child receiving one-to-one support and what is best for them and the people who are supporting them. I now look at the expertise I have within my school and who can provide it to better help inform this discussion. 

Doing this means we are really helping to give each child the best provision while also allowing children to have a variety of staff working with them. 

Involving parents

Involving parents in the organisation of staff for interventions is very important, too. 

On one occasion I spoke to parents about their child becoming over-reliant on a single member of staff because they were starting to see this individual as a friend and so it was becoming harder to retain the boundaries in the relationship that were needed to help the individual thrive.

The parents were completely in agreement regarding us changing this arrangement. In other instances, though, you can imagine some parents may be concerned about a change like this.

The key thing is to communicate and discuss openly what everyone thinks is best and then follow the path that has been agreed on. 

And when doing this, it is imperative that communication is seamless so everyone understands what has been agreed. Both for the children and staff. Everyone needs consistency. 

The whole system breaks down if there is a lack of consistency and, ultimately, children need to know that the same systems are in place whoever they are working with so they can truly thrive.

Ginny Bootman is a Sendco for two Evolve Trust primary schools in Northamptonshire

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