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					October 2006

Evaluation of the training of learning support assistants:
Recommendations for effective practice

1. Introduction and background

2. Main findings

3. Recommendations for effective practice

4. The quality of the training

5. The impact of the training on LSA practice

6. Outcomes for pupils

7. The impact of the training on LSAs themselves

8. The extent to which this work is embedded within local authorities

ANNEX        1            Programmes in use
             2            Case studies of outstanding training and learning
             3            One model for progression for an LSA in LSA
             4            Identifying good and outstanding practice using the
                          National Occupational Standards for
                          Teaching/Classroom Assistants

Evaluation of the training of learning support assistants:
Recommendations for effective practice

1. Introduction and background

Purpose of the work
This work was undertaken to assess the effectiveness of the training
provided for learning support assistants within the Strategic Intervention
Grants programme and to make recommendations for effective practice that
improves pupils’ basic skills. A small team of Basic Skills Agency Associates
carried out the work between June and September 2006.

Strategic Intervention Grants
The aim of Strategic Intervention Grants (SIGs) is to increase the number
of children and young people with good basic skills through the use of grants
to local authorities. These grants are to be used to fund specific strands of
basic skills support work and to build on the help that LEAs already provide in
this area. A number of these strands make use of learning support assistants
to help children who are falling behind the expected performance level for
their age, but who do not necessarily have special educational needs. Because
of the way that authorities organise this work, it is not always possible to
know what is funded by SIG and what is funded from other resources.

Learning Support Assistants
Schools use learning support assistants (LSAs), sometimes called teacher
assistants, or classroom assistants, to support the work of teachers in
planning and delivering learning. In this work we looked at the training of
those who, as part of their duties, provide support for pupils who need basic
skills support. LSAs come from a range of backgrounds and have diverse
experience. There has been a big increase in the number of LSAs employed
by schools. This is partly because of the changes to the rules governing
teachers’ workloads, but is also a result of a number of policy developments,
for example the development of the new Foundation Phase in Wales. There
are National Occupational Standards for Teaching/Classroom Assistants that
set out a framework of competencies for the work that LSAs do and a basis
for qualifications. We looked closely at these standards in considering what

would constitute good practice within basic skills support. A possible
framework is attached at ANNEX 3. In the past, LSAs have required no
formal qualifications, although sometimes they have qualifications in a range
of areas including teaching. In some places this is beginning to change.

NFER evaluation of the Strategic Intervention Grants Programme
In 2005, the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) published
an Evaluation of the Strategic Intervention Grants Programme. In this
report they identified the benefits of training for LSAs contributing to SIG
basic skills support programmes. The purpose of our work was to build on the
work of NFER by looking at aspects of the training that LSAs receive to
identify good practice, so that it can be widely disseminated.

Practitioner development
The National Basic Skills Strategy for Wales makes reference to “an
integrated programme of practitioner development”. One of the ten
horizontal themes set out in the Strategy, is “Developing the practitioner
workforce”. As part of its work in this area, the Agency has committed
itself to helping teachers and others involved in improving standards through
good continuous professional development.

“For serving teachers and others working in schools, such as Learning Support
Assistants, we plan to focus on developing a coherent programme of
opportunities rather than a disparate and incoherent series of training
events and courses dominated by a one-off approach”.

                           The National Basic Skills Strategy Delivery Plan 2005-06

The extent to which the current arrangements for the training of LSAs are
contributing to this objective, is therefore of keen interest.

What we looked at
This report draws on visits to six local authority areas in Wales1 nominated
by the Basic Skills Agency where we:

    Cardiff, Newport, Vale of Glamorgan, Merthyr Tydfil, Torfaen, Rhondda Cynon Taff

      met with key staff in schools and/or local authorities to discuss the
       training and deployment of LSAs;
      discussed their training and experience with LSAs;
      observed training sessions that included LSAs;
      observed learning support work carried out by them;
      scrutinised documents related to their training and its evaluation; and
      examined data related to pupil achievement in schools where LSAs
       were used on support programmes.

We also drew on published reports from other sources, for example the
NFER evaluation of the Strategic Intervention Programme, local authority
published reports and Basic Skills Agency staff notes where these included
evidenced comment on the training of LSAs. Annex 1 lists the basic skills
support programmes that we encountered when we were carrying out the
activities above.

The team of associates would like to thank all those involved for the
generous time and information that they gave to the study.

2. Main findings

The training that we saw was highly effective in meeting the needs of LSAs
involved in providing basic skills support within the SIG programme. Most of
the LSA training and support sessions that we saw were good and some were
outstanding. In this report, we have set out the characteristics of good
practice in both training and learning support and made recommendations to
improve practice further. LSA support has a positive impact on pupils’ basic
skills and there are some outstanding examples of good practice. The work
that has been done in this area has raised awareness of the needs of a
particular group of pupils and the extent to which consistent and good quality
intervention and support can improve their skills. The work is well-embedded
within the practice of local authorities, although its long-term sustainability
will depend on sufficient resources being available to maintain training
programmes and ongoing support.

3. Recommendations for effective practice

In order to build on the success that is being achieved, there is a need:

1) for those providing training to:

      reflect on the good practice set out here and make sure that all
       training and support meets similarly high standards;

      recognise the key role of headteachers and senior staff in creating
       the conditions where these programmes and staff can succeed,
       especially in protecting LSA time, securing dedicated space, supporting
       training, and making it clear to everyone that this is a priority. This
       means that getting headteachers on board is critical to the success of
       any training programme;

      improve the rigour of the evaluation of training;

      recognise that whilst LSAs derive many benefits from training
       alongside SENCOs and teachers, there is also a place for sessions that
       work with LSAs on their own on the importance of their own role; and

      recognise that LSAs do not only need to acquire the skills to deliver a
       specific programme effectively. They also need to develop a whole
       range of skills that they are able to transfer to their wider role in
       supporting and improving pupils’ basic skills and which contribute to
       their ongoing continuing professional development;

2) for those responsible for co-ordinating this work in schools to:

      ensure that LSAs have the opportunity to work closely with other
       LSAs in their own school who undertake this work, securing time for
       discussions and the sharing of materials and training. Some
       experienced LSAs would welcome the opportunity to “coach” and
       mentor others in relation to the basic skills work;

3) for local authorities to:

      review and rationalise the number and range of support programmes in
       use in the authority to avoid confusion where the number of basic skills
       support programmes has proliferated;

      ensure that programmes are closely monitored and that data on the
       outcomes of the programmes for pupils is robust and used to inform
       and develop strategy across the authority;

      secure the long-term future of the training programmes and the
       support for LSAs

4) for those with responsibilities at a national level to:

      work together to create coherent routes for LSAs to train and achieve
       qualifications. Not all training is yet closely linked to the national
       standards and work has still to be done to clarify continuing
       professional development opportunities for LSAs who wish to progress
       within the national standards or to other types of qualifications;

      reduce duplication of effort by providing opportunities for those
       involved in training and development to share good practice.

4.The quality of the training

In this section we identify many good and outstanding features in the design
and delivery of training for LSAs who provide basic skills support. Many of
these features can readily be replicated elsewhere and we recommend that
others consider them and ensure that their own training practice matches
these high standards.

The quality of most of the training programmes that we looked at was either
excellent or good. We look at the impact of the training on LSA practice and
the outcomes for pupils in later sections. Most LSAs emphasised how useful
and enjoyable the training had been and how well it had equipped them with

the skills to implement the programmes effectively. They were quick to set
out the skills that they felt that they had gained as result of the training.

We identified the following good features in the best training programmes
that we looked at:

High quality trainers
Many local authority, basic skills advisory staff and co-ordinators delivered
high quality training and were highly praised by participants. Trainers were
generally seen as knowledgeable, skilful, friendly and approachable. They
demonstrated thorough planning and delivery of training programmes to
maximise the impact of local authority strategies. They delivered messages
clearly and authoritatively, giving appropriate support to those who needed it.
They made good use of high quality teaching and learning resources and
shared these generously with LSAs.

In some cases, national trainers led the training. They were often authors of
the materials used on the basic skills support programmes, or had designed
and developed the programmes nationally. Working so closely with those who
have designed the programmes and materials helps those involved to
understand the thinking behind the programme and to use the materials more
effectively as a result. They were enthusiastic and had high hopes of the

Where the training was good, the trainers made good reference to situations
and real-life children that struck a chord with the trainees and reflected
their own day to day experience of working with children. In one case:

“Trainers told jokes and anecdotes about their work in the classroom that
rang a bell with trainees and made little asides of personal experiences that
supported their credibility with those being trained. They successfully
reflected how participants feel about the work. A colourful Powerpoint
presentation was used to back up the main delivery which evidenced well the
impact of the programme on children and was a further motivation to
success. Trainers outlined how methods and materials could be shared and
further developed and the way that this could support the sustainability of

the programme in the longer term. There were lots of different ways to “hit
the spot”.

In another case, the trainer had a natural authority because she is also
working with a group of pupils herself. As a result, her examples were “live”
and strengthened the hands-on, practical approach that was a strong feature
of the course.

Trainers generally made good use of real-life scenarios, particularly in
relation to behaviour management. They highlighted the importance of LSAs
working within their own school policy and to their own strengths. They
explained statistics in an interesting way.

At the opening session of one course, trainers made every effort to include
everyone through references to individual schools. They used good
interpersonal and communication skills, including good eye contact.
Participants all had to agree three dates when they could be visited/
observed by the course leader. Thus, trainers quickly established
assessment procedures with everyone involved.

In another case, trainers used video well to demonstrate the programme in
action. It brought the accompanying information to life and reinforced the
good practice. This “modelling” also laid down the groundwork for subsequent

In the best training, trainers gave practical help to participants in planning
and structuring their support work and activities in response to the needs of
their pupils. They encouraged participants to develop their own style within
the framework provided by the programme, as their pupils’ needs required.
They outlined ideas for supporting learning, with a wide variety of models and
images presented. Delivery was closely related to the everyday world. They
emphasised the need to make it work for the child rather than trying to fit
the child to the programme. They made good use of role play, games and

Good planning and training structure

The training programmes that we looked at took a number of formats, but
the best managed to strike a good balance between “on the job” and “off the
job” training, or between theory and practice.

In one case, the structure of the training on three consecutive half-days
allowed for “on the job” practice in the afternoons and for assignments that
consolidated learning and experience. In another case, the overall structure
of the course allowed for several weeks in between course meetings for
reflection and application of learning in the classroom with pupils.

Another programme consists of seven half-day taught sessions for LSAs
delivered over two terms. Observation and evaluation visits by the local
authority advisory teacher are built into the training timetable. LSAs
complete specific tasks in their schools between training sessions. They feed
back their findings to the whole group. Literacy co-ordinators act as
mentors for the LSAs to support the completion of the tasks.

Many of the sessions were structured around the programmes themselves
which were themselves tightly defined. In the best sessions, the training
was well-paced and trainers took participants through the material in “bite-
sized chunks” making good use of workplace experience for assignments
between sessions. There was a good balance between theory and practice.
Trainers catered well for different learning styles and backgrounds. The
tasks were interesting and made people think.

In the best cases, there was good recap of the principles to reinforce the
learning and checking of understanding, with good efforts made to ensure
that everyone was “on board”.

Attractive materials
Many of the resources in use are attractive, well produced and of a high
quality. The resources used for the training worked well and trainees were
signposted to further study and research and encouraged to carry out their
own research.

In one case,
“All LSAs on the course are given a very helpful/informative handbook plus a

CD with lots of worksheets and a trolley of resources that are specifically
for them to use with SAIL pupils – for example, magnetic letters and boards,
laminated resources, reading books across the book bands 1 to 4 etc”

In this case, a very informative handbook (sent to all participating schools),
explains in some detail the structure and rationale for SAIL and how it fits in
to other 'school action' i.e. reading recovery and STARS (more intensive
intervention in Year 2 for pupils who need further support.) Booklets
accompanying the training session were detailed and informative. They re-
iterate the theory/ methods discussed in the session and are thus a continual
point of reference. Format, layout and language are all clear, accessible and

In some cases, the local authority has adapted and customised programme
materials after trialling them. In at least one case, the LEA has produced
them as an LEA package. Advisers have supplemented the documentation to
support closer teacher and LSA tracking of pupils and improved

The carefully planned and delivered structure of the Catch Up programme
and the quality of the resources supporting it (also available bilingually) are
also strengths. A comprehensive resource box was provided for each
participating school so that resources could be revisited for refreshment and
further exploration.

Effective links between the schools and advisory staff / trainers
Most advisers and co-ordinating staff had a very clear understanding of the
needs of individual schools as a result of regular contact and support. This
was invaluable in making sure that school and pupil needs were met and the
full impact of the training gained. They generally work closely with schools to
make sure that schools feel some ownership of the training process. In one
case there is weekly support at the start of the programme and,
subsequently, contact every three weeks to maintain the programme. Schools
can request further modelling sessions or seek additional advice during this
period. There are also regular top up training workshops where ideas can be
exchanged. This is important for ongoing support, modelling and mentoring by
co-ordinators. Generally their rapport with schools is excellent.

Trainers often go into schools to model best practice to school staff. LSAs
valued this relationship very much and speak highly of the benefits of this
kind of ongoing support. Words like “inspirational” were regularly used of the
people involved. Positive comments about their enthusiasm, energy and
commitment were frequent. In one authority:

“All visits result in written feedback, including action points to work on
before the next visit. Good feedback is given to each school on its
programmes through regular meetings that enable key staff to provide
helpful support to the LSA where needed. Continuing contact sessions take
place termly to bring past and present trainees together. Fortnightly visits
are made to LSAs in school. This means up to ten 1 to 1 sessions, providing a
lot of support where and when it is most needed. The fortnightly visits by
the course tutor are extremely valuable and are the principal means of
assessment for participants. The tutor can also “muck in” if she feels that
the LSA needs help or direction. She will also model activities if this is of

Good support for those who are trained
In all cases, the schools themselves identified the LSAs who should be
involved in the training. This ensured their suitability for the programme and
also conferred status on those chosen. It meant that schools had a stake in
their success and that they would receive support on their home base. In a
number of cases, positive reports of the training from LSAs who had
participated in the training programme, encouraged other LSAs to “badger”
the school to send them on the course. In one authority:

“Classroom teachers who have signed up for Literacy Launcher attend a two-
day training to look at strategies and resources for struggling readers.
These teachers then identified LSAs to take part in the training. There is a
commitment on the part of the school to support the in-school work
necessary for the participants to complete the course.”

Opportunities for accreditation
Whilst many LSAs did not embark on their training in order to seek
qualifications, they nevertheless welcomed the accreditation where it was

available, seeing it as an endorsement of their skills and status and an
encouragement in some cases to go on to further training, for example,
teacher training or further training in SEN. In some cases, participants
receive a certificate of course completion and there is a possibility of
accreditation at a level equivalent to NVQ Level 2. In one case, the training
programme is not accredited, but evidence from the course can be used
towards level 3 NVQ for Teaching/Classroom Assistants which is also
delivered for the LEA by an external training organisation (though originally
set up and delivered by an advisor).

In the best cases, participants saw the training as friendly and not
intimidating, with lots of opportunities for questions. The training groups all
bonded well and the diversity was an asset. In most training programmes,
group members provided significant support for each other and the groups
still keep in touch. The trainees clearly benefited from group support and
from being able to share concerns, ideas and resources. This was of major
importance to participants.

Supportive cross-school teamwork
The benefits resulting from the development of a team approach within
schools are impressive. The involvement in some local authority training
programmes of a team (for example a teacher, a SENCO and an LSA) from
each school, promotes partnership and shared commitment between all those
staff involved. This approach was seen to break down barriers and made
many LSAs feel valued members of a wider team, both within their own
school and also within the local authority. Joint training of LSAs with
teachers and SENCOs raised the status of LSAs in terms of their own self-
image and within their schools. They also enjoyed being involved in whole-
school training within their own school which made each feel a more valued
member of the team. In some authorities, a teacher and an LSA were
trained “as a pair” for mutual support and co-operation.

In other cases, teachers had sought out the training because they
themselves were working with an LSA who had undertaken it, and the teacher
wished to be able to support the LSA better. There was much evidence of
strong support within schools for LSAs undertaking training from

headteachers, SENCOs and teachers themselves. This was partly the result
of work and encouragement from local authority co-ordinating staff who had
devised a training model designed to secure this. In some cases, LSAs
attended the training and were also used to mentor other LSAs. In at least
one case, this was a powerful developmental experience for the LSA herself.

Strong peer support
LSAs spoke particularly highly of the peer support that they had received
from other members of the training group. Networks had been created and
sustained with regular meetings, sometimes termly, or half-termly during
school time. These were key opportunities for sharing good practice,
developing ideas, and discussing difficulties. LSAs found that they had
expertise and insights to contribute into children’s learning that they were
able to share, perhaps for the first time. These networks were well-
supported by local authority co-ordinators who also used them for effective
dissemination of information and sharing of good practice. Newsletters also

High quality training settings
In the best cases, the quality of the training setting enhanced the training
itself. In one case, the session was based in a dedicated training room within
an SEN support centre. There were many materials on display and the rich
learning environment in terms of ideas, information, support, guidance and
materials made a strong contribution to the quality and effectiveness of the
training. In another case, the use of a modern purpose-built advisory service
training centre, where headteachers and others were training in neighbouring
rooms, lent an air of professionalism and promoted learning and personal

Shortcomings identified
Where reservations about the quality of aspects of the training were
expressed, these were as follows:

      Some all-day sessions were felt to be too long. Delegates became
       disengaged, especially where they felt that some of the theory or the
       activities had been “over their heads”.

      There was not enough opportunity to try things out and not enough
       practical activity. Participants would like to have seen some of the
       ideas modelled with children. Some of the materials were “dry” and it
       was hard to “get your head round them”.

      In one case delegates were reluctant to speak out and share ideas in a
       mixed audience with LEA “hierarchy” present.

      Little effort was made in one case to check the learning or to seek
       feedback from participants during the session.

      Because of the timing of some training (before the programmes
       themselves were up and running), there was no opportunity for trainees
       to put into practice what they were learning.

      Some programmes present more difficulties than others for LSAs.
       Those LSAs that had been trained in First Steps in Maths expressed
       greater difficulties initially than those that had been trained in Catch
       Up or SAIL. They found the materials less easy to use in the first
       instance. The materials required more personal study. These problems
       did not relate to the LSA’s own individual levels of competence.

Evaluation of the training
Most training programmes included an element of evaluation as part of the
programme, although this was not always robust. Sometimes this took the
form of a questionnaire, whilst others also included group evaluation sessions.
In one case, group exercises based on “circle time”, which is used in schools
as part of the literacy element, provided the basis for the evaluation.
Smaller groups were then asked to compile “plus and minus” lists on flipchart
paper. Group members also had the chance as individuals (on questionnaires)
to say what they felt that they had gained from the course and how they felt
that it had helped their pupils. The questionnaire itself asked the right
questions, but these were written in such a way as to encourage yes/no
answers rather than more reflective answers.

Precautions were generally taken to ensure that participants could speak
freely in evaluation sessions. Measures were taken, for example by using a

colleague of the trainer to lead the evaluation session so that participants
might speak more freely in the absence of the lead trainer. However, in one
of the sessions observed, there was very little critical feedback, although
participants had struggled. Some critical comment was made about the
training that was not shared in the group evaluation.

5. The impact of the training on LSA practice

In addition to looking at aspects of the training programme, we followed up
learning support assistants to see how they implemented the programmes in
which they had been trained and to assess the impact of the training on the
children with whom they worked.

Of the support sessions that we observed, most were either good or
outstanding. Very few did not demonstrate effective support.

In those sessions that were good or outstanding, LSAs:

      demonstrated a good understanding of the programme in which they
       had been trained and were enthusiastic about it;
      showed an understanding of the needs of the child or children being
       supported and chose tasks at a suitable level of work for them;
      made good use of the skills, knowledge and attitudes that had been
       fundamental to their training programmes;
      demonstrated effective use of strategies and models that they had
       been trained to use;
      gave good support and encouragement to children;
      made effective use of the recording proforma and other
       documentation associated with their programmes; and
      often used materials that they had made themselves with particular
       children in mind.

In discussions most indicated that:

      they were knowledgeable about assessment and identifying the level of
       children’s work. As a result of the training, they are able to say

    “This is too difficult for my children.”
    “I know what children find tough”.
    “I feel more confident about what to say”
    “I know where they are in understanding”
    “As a result of the training I can say that I have a better
    understanding of maths language”.

    In one case an LSA who had undertaken assessments of individual
    children as part of a First Steps in Maths programme was able to say

    “Progress will come because now I’m secure in my assessment of where
    the child is and what he needs to do next”

    “This child is clearly at the matching/quantifying stage rather than the
    emergent stage. There is still a lot to do on counting”;

   they monitored the progress of pupils closely and were able to
    demonstrate the progress that pupils had made by highlighting
    assessment records and completed tasks as evidence. They spoke
    proudly of particular successes and took great pleasure in the progress
    made by pupils;

   they were able to match a suitable approach to the needs of the
    individual pupils. “She is firm with those who are challenging and
    gentle with those that are timid”;

   they enjoyed considerable freedom within the framework of the
    programme to plan and deliver support sessions;

   they understood their own role as an LSA and its relationship with the
    roles of other staff in the school;

   they had purposeful and productive relationships with teaching staff
    and liaised effectively with SENCOs and classroom teachers as

      they sought help when they felt that there was a problem;

      they reported any cause for concern as appropriate;

      they felt well-equipped to undertake their role and spoke with
       confidence about their work and the support that they had received
       from colleagues in the school and support staff in the LEA;

      they indicated the benefits that they had derived from the training
       that they had received, both professionally and personally; and

      they welcomed the support and leadership of headteachers and senior
       staff in the school.

Headteachers, SENCOs and others who are involved in the projects were
strong supporters of the initiatives and spoke highly of the contribution
made by LSAs. Many had observed growth in confidence and skills as a result
of the involvement of the LSA in the training and subsequent delivery of the
programme. Many headteachers noted that LSAs were becoming more
professional. In one school, all but one of the school’s 12 LSAs now has more
than the basic qualification (a six week introductory course provided by the
local authority). In the same school, the headteacher moves the LSAs every
two years so that they gain experience of working with different teachers.

Some LSAs find difficulty in securing time in school to plan their work and
develop resources. Many do this is their own time. However, there is a
delicate balance to be struck in relation to preparing individual resources. It
is important that the resources used with children meet their learning needs.
Many teachers and LSAs are rightly proud of the attractive, high quality
resources that they prepare (games, charts worksheets etc). However, it can
take up a lot of time and energy. In some cases, people in neighbouring rooms
are spending a lot of their own time on developing materials that could be
shared more widely.

In one case, an associate was concerned about the deployment of an LSA in
the Foundation phase where the rationale for selection of the group of

learners with whom the LSA was working was unclear. This affected the
quality of the support given.

6. Outcomes for pupils

There were a number of difficulties in evaluating outcomes in a scientific way
and relating this directly to the quality of the training that individual LSAs
had received. The LSAs came from a wide range of backgrounds and brought
different skills, experience and qualifications. They had been part of
different cohorts of trainees. They had very different expectations of their
role. It was therefore difficult to attribute anything more than their
specific knowledge of their individual programme to the specific training that
they had received. An additional complication was that in the schools where
the LSAs were located, there were many cross-cutting school improvement
strategies in place. This made it difficult to attribute any specific
improvement in pupil attainment solely to a specific improvement activity.

Nevertheless, in every case, we were impressed by:

      the commitment of headteachers and others in the schools that we
       visited to the support programme that they had chosen and their
       strong belief that the programmes are having a significant impact on
       standards. All kept data which they drew on to support this view;

      their belief that the role of learning support assistants was very
       positive in these particular initiatives and that the training that the
       LSAs had received was critical to this success;

      the extent to which senior staff in schools saw protecting the
       programmes and the involvement of LSAs in them as a priority. They
       were willing to sacrifice other priorities in order to maintain the
       programmes at a time of stringency (although one LSAs contract had
       been terminated because of school finances); and

      their very positive comments about the support that the school was
       receiving in accessing and benefiting from the training provided by the
       LEA and subsequent support from LEA advisory and support staff.

The statistical evidence produced by the schools and local authorities visited
indicates that significant progress is being made by pupils on support
programmes where LSAs are involved. In one case, an average gain of 31
months per pupil was experienced by pupils on a Number Workout programme.

Elsewhere, significant improvements in aspects of literacy or numeracy were
demonstrated in data held by the school and the LEA. Whilst much of this
record keeping is unscientific (there is no control group and it is difficult to
establish direct causal links) the anxiety of headteachers and SENCOs to
protect and support these programmes indicates their own belief in the
effectiveness of the approaches.

An external evaluation carried out on behalf of one authority set out the
gains that had been measured as a result of a Catch UP programme where
LSAs are key members of school teams:

“For each of the three cohorts of pupils in Catch Up, baseline testing was
carried out in September each year, and tests (Salford Revised Reading Test
and Young’s Spelling test) on pupils reading and spelling were carried out in
the middle of the spring term and end of the summer term. Some of the
pupils made exceptional gains of 25-45 months over the nine-month periods
during which they were exposed to the intervention. The average gain across
the 50 schools in 2004/05 was 19.2 months for years 2-6, which compares
very favourably with 16.4 months across the 20 schools involved in Catch Up
in 2003/04 and the 22.5 months across the 12 schools involved in 2002/03”

         The Catch Up programme in the Vale of Glamorgan 2002-2005: Final
                                                         Evaluation Report

The evaluation sets out equally impressive evidence of improvement in other
aspects of learning.

As a result, we concluded that LSAs were key members of school teams
working on these initiatives and that almost invariably the training that they
had received successfully equipped them for this role.

A number of pupils themselves said how much the support that they had
received had helped them. They spoke of their increased confidence and
pleasure in reading and how they can read classroom instructions more
clearly. One described how she chooses books from the “hall box” at reading
time instead of her reader. They enjoy their time with the LSA:

“It is quieter in here- we can work better”
“We get left behind in the big class-people shout out the answers too quickly”
“Mrs L can give us more help. There are too many children for the teacher to
help in the class”
“I feel braver putting my hand up because I think I will get it right”

7. The impact of the training on LSAs themselves

LSAs identified their gains as:

      a great sense of achievement as a result of the training;
      specific skills in helping children in reading or numeracy and with
       terminology and technical skills;
      increased status in their schools as “the expert” in a programme,
       particularly where the LSA keeps the records;
      greater satisfaction derived from seeing individual children making
      better use of their time and a focus for their work with children;
      feeling more a part of a team; and
      more confidence across all their work, not just basic skills support,
       with a consequent impact on the children they work with.

One LSA spoke for many when she said how much she enjoyed that aspect of
the work that enabled her to spend time with pupils, in small groups or on
their own, often in an attractive dedicated area which she “owned” and
maintained. She could get to know pupils well and, because she is responsible
for planning and delivering, the job is more rewarding and she can see the
difference that she is making.

Once again, it was difficult to attribute LSA development to any single
training event, as some had experienced a range of training opportunities.

The LSAs that we saw were a very varied group with a wide range of
different experience and qualifications who had taken on the LSA role for
very different reasons. Some had become involved as LSAs through their
children and saw their work as an extension of their parental role. Others
saw their work as an extension of their involvement in their local community.
Another proportion had simply applied for a job that they had seen
advertised. Others had moved on from roles as dinner ladies or school
clerical staff. Whilst some had developed ideas for career development as a
result of the training, others enjoyed their enhanced role as LSAs more as a
result of the training and saw this as sufficient encouragement to continue in
their current roles.

LSAs are far from being a homogeneous group and this has implications for
any training that is provided and the extent to which they will be able to
meet the requirements of very prescriptive programmes. In the best cases,
schools have the choice of which LSAs they nominate for training
programmes and can select those whom they feel can benefit the most.

A number of LSAs expressed the view that the position of LSAs has
improved over the years. They no longer feel that they are “the general
dogsbody” but now have a specific role and feel more able to make a
difference to an individual pupil’s learning. They feel that they are able to
contribute to school improvement and are increasingly seen by class teachers
as vital members of the team. In some authorities, all LSAs now have to take
the NVQ 3, which includes the CACHE certificate. In these cases,
observations undertaken by the Co-ordinator can be used as evidence and she
can also write witness statements to be used for assessment.

One LSA presented a particularly good model for progression:

The LSA started as a volunteer because her son was in the school and then
picked up part-time hours giving speech and language support. She attended
the family numeracy programme, achieved the NVQ level 3 for
Teaching/Classroom Assistants, attended the SAIL training, has gained IT
and First Aid qualifications and is now doing a foundation degree in Learning
Support at UWIC.

In one authority all LSAs have to work towards and eventually gain the NVQ
3 (doing it as a modern apprenticeship scheme, contracted to a training
organisation). One LSA described how she was unable to transfer her prior
learning from the foundation degree to a level 4 programme but she can go on
to a full degree in Primary Education provided that she gains the 2 GCSEs
required as well. In this case the LEA was paying for the LSA to do her
foundation degree. Depending on an individual’s personal circumstances, he or
she may be able to apply for help with fees, or if in receipt of working tax
credits may not need to pay. We have set out a model for an emerging
training route in Annex 3.

Whilst many LSAs take part in school INSET days alongside teaching staff
when the subject is of interest, there was little sharing amongst LSAs
themselves in a school and at times they worked in some isolation. There
were sometimes few opportunities taken to bring LSAs together within their
own school to share resources that they had made or to discuss problems.

There is still more work to be done to meet the Basic Skills Agency
reference in The National Strategy to “an integrated programme of
practitioner development” that will help teachers and others involved in
improving standards through good continuous professional development.
However the developments that we have seen in this area will make an
important contribution to achieving this objective.

8.The extent to which this work is embedded within local authorities

Training is well-embedded in all the authorities that we visited. In all cases,
senior staff within LEAs are closely associated with it and support its
development and delivery. These include LEA advisory staff and basic skills
co-ordinators. They show great enthusiasm, energy and skill in this work and
are widely praised. However, in some cases, LEA co-ordinating staff are very
stretched. In one case, there is still only one person managing all the work in
spite of substantial expansion in the last three years. This could put ongoing
support at risk. The work is part of an ongoing strategy and features in
strategic plans. However, the long term sustainability of the programmes
financially is not always certain. In some cases, LSA posts are at risk as a
result of budget restrictions. This has already taken its toll on some LSAs

who have been trained to provide basic skills support, with the loss of some
posts as a result of cuts in school budgets.

Much of the success of these programmes is due to the enthusiasm,
leadership and commitment of headteachers and others who have secured
the conditions for successful implementation of the programmes in their

There is a plethora of initiatives and programmes designed to improve pupils’
basic skills that require different strategies and skills of practitioners.
There is a risk that they sometimes cut across each other and result in
confusion. There are occasional anomalies where pupils are routinely involved
in further programmes when evidence shows that they have already made
progress on their original programme. This can distort data on achievement
and is not good use of scarce resources.

There is sometimes little administrative support for data collection and
analysis. In some cases, a large amount of data is carefully collected, but it
is not clear where the data goes and what is done with it at a more strategic

Annex 1

We saw activities that were linked to a range of programmes. These

The Catch Up programme
First Steps in Maths
Numeracy Acceleration
Running Numeracy Intervention programmes (Springboard)
Supporting Pupils in the daily mathematics lesson
Literacy Launcher programme
Number Workout
Boosters (Maths) secondary to support lower ability pupils
Spotlight Numeracy

ANNEX 2: Case studies

We saw many examples of good and outstanding practice of which these
case study notes are only a few.

Case study 1: Training session in SAIL: Afternoon of the first session for a
new group (but from schools that have all sent LSAs for SAIL training

SAIL - School Action Intervention in Literacy

SAIL (School Action Intervention in Literacy). The programme that we saw
focuses on pupils in Year 1 who are showing signs of falling behind their peers
in terms of reading by the end of the 1st term. The training programme
involves 4 blocks of 5-week units and the participants meet altogether 5
times during the course (includes final evaluation). Participants also receive
observation/support visits in their school every fortnight.

All the LSAs present are working in schools where the SAIL programme is
well-established and these schools have other LSAs who have attended this
training. Interestingly, the group also included 3 newly qualified class
teachers who wanted to attend the course to increase their knowledge - Two
of them have SAIL- trained LSAs in their class and felt they needed to do
this also in order to better support the LSA. Whereas normally the SENCO
or class teacher attends the session with the LSA, at least one school has
sent an experienced LSA (who has QTS) along to be the mentor instead - this
is allowing the experienced LSA to extend her own professional skills by
supporting a colleague in this way. This course had come about because
schools are pressing for SAIL training in years 2/3 as well as reception/yr1
as in the original plans.

The whole course is thoroughly planned as are the individual sessions. This is
vital given that there is a lot of ground to cover - the booklets accompanying
this session were detailed and informative - importantly they re-iterate
theory/methods discussed in the session and are thus a continual point of
reference. Format, layout and language all clear, accessible and user-

The trainer has a natural authority stemming from the fact that she is also
working with a group of pupils herself - hence examples are 'live' and
strengthen the hands-on, practical approach, which is a strong feature of the
course. Group relationships were already being established and the trainer
took care to address all in the group by eye-contact and references to
individual schools. Participants all had to agree 3 dates when they would be
visited/observed by the trainer.

The session started with a video of an experienced LSA taking a 40 minute
SAIL session with four children. It clearly demonstrated the application and
management of the SAIL approach. This follows a uniform sequence of...text
work, phonics, high frequency word work and sentence work. Extension work
is also planned to stretch pupils further if there is time.

The video was extremely helpful in demonstrating how it all happens - very
useful for LSAs new to SAIL but still useful for those who may have already
observed sessions in their own schools. It brought the accompanying
information booklet to life and provided a clear example of good practice.
This 'modelling' also lays the ground for assessments, but the trainer
assured LSAs that this was not expected from day one.

The next task was to break down information from a typical weekly planner
put together by the class teacher and transfer it onto a daily planning sheet
with objectives for each of the four pupils set against the four different
aspects outlined in the structure in the opening paragraph. LSAs appreciated
the pre-set structure of the planning sheet and began to develop an
awareness of how the 40 minutes is shaped by different activities, and how
these flow from one to the other.

Models and principles are all the time balanced with 'reality in the classroom'
- in other words, LSAs are encouraged to work in their own ways with pupils,
whom they know very well and who will all have different needs. All will have
their own way of setting up a room and preparing resources.

The session finished with a very useful exploration of behaviour management
in the group. Lots of real scenarios were given by the trainer, who

emphasised all the time that LSAs must work within individual school policies.
Another useful booklet issued with guidance and ideas for behaviour
management - LSAs assured that they must work in the way that suits them -
we can have different views on how to tackle behaviour etc.


As a group, most have observed another colleague delivering SAIL sessions in
their own schools. This session built on this and required participants to apply
planning skills straight away. In the morning, all participants had been given
their own resource packs which support the particular features of a 40
minute SAIL session. They found this particularly helpful and explained how
the resources could be used - this was also backed up by the video in the

LSAs said afterwards that:
    there was a lot of information to digest, but the practical approach to
     the sessions helped in this respect, plus the booklets and the pack of
    several had become LSAs by initially volunteering in the school - often
     working with one pupils with special needs
    they felt that the position of LSAs had improved over the years. The
     LSA is no longer 'the general dogsbody', but now has a specific role
     and feels able to really make a difference with individual pupils'
    they felt able to contribute to school improvement and seen by class
     teachers as vital members of the team.
    all LSAs in this authority now have to attain the NVQ 3 for teachers/
     classroom assistants.
Other aspects
   Excellent resources ( all templates for classroom use are on a CD along
     with teaching materials) -
   Session based in a dedicated training room within the SEN Support
     Centre. Masses of materials on display - a very 'rich' learning
     environment in terms of ideas, information, support, guidance and
   Personal support is via the trainer principally, but also through SENCO,

       class teacher and experienced LSAs in school.

Good practice/recommendations

Good   features:
       thorough planning
       skilled and experienced trainer
       LSAs accompanied by class teacher or SENCO
       a careful balance struck between theory/info and hands-on, practical
       class teachers attending the course to learn themselves
       excellent resources, good course materials
       sessions grounded in the reality of the classroom
       LSAs able to see improvements in pupils as a result of their work
       support via e-mail, phone etc
       Trainer also delivers one day INSET sessions in schools when
        requested, thus SAIL very well integrated into school curriculum

    to compile more video footage that reflects the different levels at
     which LSAs can work with children

Case study 2: an LSA support session using SAIL

The LSA had undertaken training on SAIL. The group observed consisted of
four pupils (all boys) from Yr 2 who had been identified as needing more
intensive help - they are still not able to read independently and with the
fluency expected at this stage. They can use verbal prompts, initial sounds
and picture cues to read and spell out words, but in the larger class setting
are not keeping up. This is only the second time D had worked with the group
- they had literacy support in class in Yr 1 last year. They will work with her
for 45 minutes every morning; Monday to Thursday, covering new words etc.
Friday is spent in a general consolidation session where LSA will make a more
summative record of progress during the week.

Observation findings
 Session carefully planned using teacher’s assessments as a baseline for

   Good quality resources all to hand - LSA using the trolley of resources
    given to each school when they take part in SAIL. The LSA has also made
    a lot of additional good quality resources herself.
   Good use of the structured SAIL planning sheet with objectives set for
    each of the activities. This was explained in the training session last week
    - obviously a useful and well-established planning tool that has stood the
    test of time. Easy to tick off when each pupil fulfils an objective.
   Skilled group management and confident/effective use of questioning -
    LSA watching closely and ensuring each child has chance to respond in his
    or her own way.
   A very clear demonstration of the SAIL format ( text, word, sentence,
    phonic) in use and LSA moving pupils from one activity to the other with
   Pupils all eager and engaged - clearly benefiting from the smaller group
    and LSA’s undivided attention. Responding to questions and instructions
    readily, able to carry out activities with relative ease and focusing hard on
    letters, text, pictures, sounds and pulling these together when asked.
   LSA used two activities that she has introduced herself to add a bit of
    variety: the first was the use of a stop watch allowing the group 30
    seconds to write the letter S as many times as they could then the word
    AND as many times as they could. Her objective to increase fluency in
    writing - it worked very well. Another was to bring pupils together in
    front of the big whiteboard and take turns to write a sentence that they
    could remember from their book for the day (spelling not a priority at this
    point). All used different coloured pens and all added to the same
    sentence. Apart from the change in medium, the pupils are learning to
    wait, watch the words to be able to follow on in sequence and correct
    spellings collectively.


   Tight planning, clear objectives, careful ‘setting up’ of the learning area
    and good quality resources linked to SAIL format
   Skilled use of questioning and hence ‘natural’ group management
   Built - in differentiation and a good pace maintained, to which pupils

   Obvious enjoyment and motivation of pupils
   Well structured learning activities, building one on top of the other
   Plenty of quick rewards/achievement for pupils
   Attention to very specific sub-skills - LSA able to monitor responses and
    assess progress at the same time, hence avoiding a ‘pile up’ of recording to
    do later
   Targets linked to teacher assessments and SAIL set books - allowing the
    dovetailing of assessments rather than creating another whole assessment
    system (every five weeks the LSA completes a ‘running record’ using a
    benchmark book and gives results to class teachers
   The LSA taking the initiative to create her own very good quality
    materials and introduce different learning strategies to augment those
    learned on the SAIL training
   In discussion with LSA afterwards she was able to give an example of a
    pupil who entered the school with no pre-literacy skills (parents both
    travellers and non-readers). In 20 weeks using SAIL she progressed from
    just writing her name to reading from book band 4 with confidence. LSA
    thinks one of the most important outcomes is an increased confidence,
    which they take back to the classroom. But there are also clear,
    measurable improvements in literacy skills.
   Creates own materials to a good standard
   Introduces different teaching strategies to enhance the learning
   LSAs go on to more advanced training and increase knowledge and
    understanding of the learning process - LSA now doing a foundation
    degree as well as working in the school

No shortcomings.

Case study 3: training session in “Literacy Launcher”. The fourth session
of ten.

The session involved seven LSAs from two junior schools, all known to the
trainer, who has regular contact with the schools. Four are very experienced
and one is very new to the role. The course is the same as is used for

Each LSA has a manual and handouts. Electronic whiteboard is well-used. An
excellent range of training strategies is used. Theories of children’s learning
are explained. There is modelling and discussion. Direct inputs from the
trainer and workplace experience are well-used. The trainer gives LSAs
confidence, values their ideas and contributions and empowers them to make
recommendations to class teachers.

The LSAs join in the activities well. The activity is about framing questions
for pupils working with non-fiction books. They are relaxed and confident
and work co-operatively to search for information. They discuss levels of
books with colleagues. They put themselves in the child’s position and discuss
the kinds of questions that they would set.

There is good recap and evaluation at the end of the session. Tasks are given
for the next session and visits are arranged. The trainer uses these visits to
check LSA progress, encourage, praise and model good practice.


   Trainer is an expert in her field
   Good relationship between trainer and LSAs
   Good explanation of objectives with good links to previous work
   Friendly ethos, but trainer is authoritative
   High standards of training
   Questioning draws out LSA understanding
   Excellent materials
   Good organisation
   Strong ongoing support provided
   Good knowledge of individuals and schools on the part of the trainer
   Fact that this is the same course as the classroom teachers have
    improves communication between them, improves LSA status and ensures
    that the LSA will receive quality support.

No shortcomings

Case study 4

Support session: First steps in Maths

First Steps in Maths

This is a prescribed programme to address misconceptions in Maths.
The First Steps in Mathematics programme is designed to help teachers to
plan, implement and evaluate the learning experiences that they provide for
their students. The resources assist teachers to make professional
judgements about where a child is in their understanding of a mathematical
concept. The programme helps teachers to:

      build or extend pupils' knowledge of the mathematical concepts that
       underpin specific outcomes
      understand how pupils learn mathematics so that they can make sound
       professional judgements
      plan learning experiences that are likely to develop the mathematical
       outcomes of all students.

Where we saw this programme in use, a co-ordinating teacher is trained by
local authority advisory staff and the training is “cascaded” to other school
staff with three days training provided overall for teachers and LSAs on a
whole school basis. Ongoing support and advice is provided to the school by
local authority staff.

Four Year 9 boys are given problems on a storyboard. (Greg had 18
marbles…) They have to work out a process to solve the problems and then
solve them. Some draw the problem and others use counters to represent
the numbers. They then write the number sentence – sum. They have
problems with “more than”. The LSA supports and explains to them.

Pupils begin to see that if they draw a representation of the problem they
can understand what the operation should be. They suddenly understand the
problem and the solution. It is helpful to them to talk though their problems.
The LSA discusses the concepts and operations. She then retests them on
their original “test” to check progress. Some can see their mistakes, but
others cannot. (Some have developmental or special needs.)

Good and outstanding features of the support provided:

       helpful explanations;
       organisation and planning for pupils and the resources;
       LSA’s subject knowledge and understanding of the programme;
       LSA understanding of individual needs; and
       LSA understanding of assessment.

Case study 5

First steps in Maths

Two pupils within the target group have speech and language difficulties that
limit their ability to give clear explanations of their work. Others take
longer to “get the message”. Pupils have card clocks and indicate the time on
them in response to LSA questions. The LSA is already very competent,
works alongside a very good teacher and has clearly learned from her. She
says that the FSiM training has made her reflect more on what children find

At the end of the session one boy, keen to share his new understanding says:

“Now I know how to do quarter past and quarter to and I didn’t before!”
They like the small group support and one boy says:

“We get left behind in class – people shout out the answers too quickly.

Good features:

   Very good questioning of pupils to extend learning
   Very good encouragement of reluctant learners
   The teacher works effectively with one pupil to demonstrate to the other.


          One model for progression for an LSA in LSA training

   Working as a volunteer in a school and attending an introductory course
                        delivered within/by the LEA
Attending a family literacy and/or numeracy course as apparent/adult learner
  Attending LEA INSET - either a whole school event or attending training
                      days outside of the school
Taking an NVQ level 2 in Children’s Care, Learning & Development (there is a
  level 2 full-time course delivered in FE colleges, which is the BTEC First
              Diploma in Children’s Care, Learning & Development)
        Progressing ( or going straight on ) to the NVQ level 3 for
Teaching/Classroom Assistants (there is a level 3 full-time course delivered
  by FE colleges, which is the BTEC National Diploma in Early Years - now
                          equivalent to 4 A levels)
 Attending a level 4/5 course at HE e.g. the Foundation Degree in Learning
Taking the Higher Level Teaching Assistant’s course at level 4 (for which you
                   have to have GCSE English and maths)

Annex 4: Criteria for effective LSA practice to support observation schedule for LSAs working with pupils

Roles/skills                          Outstanding features                 Good practice                          Weaker practice
Contributing to the overall           Good practice plus…examples of       The LSA works well with other          A superficial knowledge of
welfare & safety of pupils            LSA contributing to policy           professionals to ensure pupils’        relevant policies/ not always
                                      development/suggesting               welfare & safety. They have a          aware of the implications of
                                      improvements/alerting others to      good understanding of relevant         activities with pupils
                                      pupils’ needs/taking action to       policies & this is clearly reflected
                                      avert a situation                    in their work with pupils.
Building relationships with pupils,   …examples of dealing very well       The LSA develops good                  Is not an active member of the
teachers and parents                  with difficult situations/taking     relationships based on well-           team/does not always build
                                      responsibility within a              developed personal/social skills.      positive relationships with
                                      team/overcoming barriers with        Is able to engage, respond &           pupils/does not seek to engage
                                      pupils with particularly complex     support effectively. Works well        with parents & share information
                                      needs                                in a team.
Helping manage pupil behaviour        …examples of developing new          The LSA manages pupils’                A reactive rather than proactive
                                      strategies for working with pupils   behaviour well & demonstrates a        approach/tends to ‘raise the
                                      that improve their behaviour/ a      good understanding of school           voice’ rather than manage
                                      proactive approach to positive       policies. They make timely             behaviour positively/pupils do not
                                      behaviour management/                interventions that help maintain a     receive enough direction or
                                      supporting less confident            safe/positive learning                 guidance
                                      colleagues                           environment.
Using resources to support            …examples of resources they have     The LSA uses resources                 Does not make full or effective
learning                              devised that have helped improve     imaginatively based on pupils’         use of resources in order to help
                                      pupils’ achievement/resources        needs and their learning               pupils achieve
                                      produced to very good standard       objectives. They create &
                                                                           maintain a conducive learning
                                                                           environment. They are confident
                                                                           to develop their own materials.

Supporting pupils according to     …examples where LSA is               The LSA provides good support        Support is not always timely or
their needs                        particularly resourceful in          based on a clear understanding of    effective/not confident in
                                   supporting a small group with        pupils’ needs & prior achievement.   reviewing and revising practice to
                                   different needs/developing           They evaluate their practice &       overcome these
                                   methods to help pupils be more       revise approaches to benefit         weaknesses/pupils are not
                                   independent                          pupils.                              benefiting enough from the
Contributing to pupils’ records    …providing detailed and evaluative   LSA makes accurate &                 Lacks confidence in this aspect.
(where applicable)                 contributions about pupil’s          informative contributions to         Records lack detail & tend to list
                                   progress                             pupils’ records. They maintain       actions rather than describe
                                                                        records according to school          pupils’ achievements or otherwise
Using strategies to help develop   …examples of taking the              LSA develops pupils’ skills well,    Not making the fullest or most
pupils’ lit/num/ICT skills         initiative& developing new           using appropriate strategies with    effective use of strategies
                                   strategies that have benefited       confidence and skill. They help      identified/making little use of
                                   pupils/sharing with                  review pupils’ progress and use      ideas from training & staff
                                   colleagues/making very effective     this information to adapt their      development or teacher’s input
                                   use of problem-solving               approach where necessary. They
                                                                        make good use of learning from
                                                                        any training/staff development.

Reviewing & developing own   …examples of LSA making very         LSA is able to evaluate their own   Has difficulty in evaluating
professional practice        good links between practical         practice & identify strengths/      practice effectively, particularly
                             experience and theory/records        weaknesses, and prioritise          in measuring impact on pupils/does
                             are highly evaluative/LSA            further action. They draw           not draw effectively on staff dev
                             undertaking additional training      effectively on any staff            or training to revise
                             and/or researching to develop        development/training and apply      approaches/records largely
                             knowledge further/able to            this to good effect with pupils.    descriptive
                             measure impact of their activities   They respond positively to
                             on pupils                            feedback/advice from other
                                                                  professionals. Written records
                                                                  are generally evaluative.


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