'Providing a complement to learning is not the same as offering administrative support'

14th May 2004 at 01:00
At Newton Farm first and middle school in Harrow, there are "learning assistants" and there are "teaching administrators".

Rhekha Bhakoo, the headteacher, believes it is important to define the roles clearly and does not expect her classroom-based learning assistants simply to take on more and more of the teacher's workload.

Learning assistants at the school work with pupils and sometimes supervise whole classes, whereas teaching administrators are limited to the "25 tasks" - such as putting up displays and low-level marking - which, under the workforce agreement, teachers are no longer expected to do.

Ms Bhakoo, who joined Newton Farm 11 years ago, said: "There has been a vast change in teaching assistants' roles. When I first started here, it was seen as a secondary role. Now it is about complementing teachers' work.

"I don't think teachers feel threatened if they see it as a complementary role which benefits children and reduces teachers' workload."

Newton Farm was one of 32 schools which trialled ways of reducing workload last year. Some of the ideas are now being taken up nationally.

Ms Bhakoo appointed Sally Francis and Moira Cafferky to be teaching administrators, using additional funds she received last year. They have have now been joined by another administrator.

Newton Farm is a semi open-plan school, and this year some learning assistants have begun to take planned and prepared classes under the supervision of a teacher.

Ms Bhakoo said: "I think both - teaching administrators and learning assistants - are needed.

"You have to be careful if you expect learning assistants to take on administrative roles as well as a role in the classroom."

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