A blog for students on the FDLT and BALT courses at the University of Northampton

at Leicester and UN

March 25, 2014
by Jean

Introducing the first ever TA TeachMeet!

We will be holding what we think is the first ever TA TeachMeet here at the University of Northampton on Thursday May 22nd.



A TeachMeet is an informal and positive celebration of and sharing of resources and good practice. If you are a TA, HLTA, Learning Mentor supporting learning in an educational setting please come along.

You can find out more here – TeachMeet

You can book a place here – booking

If you are on twitter look out for tweets using #TATMUN

Questions? Leave a comment on this post or email me direct: jean.edwards@northampton.ac.uk

March 19, 2014
by Jean

National Debate on the value of Teaching Assistants!

Yesterday MP Alex Cunningham led a Westminster Hall debate on the value of teaching assistants in schools.

wh The TES reported on this debate:

“The government has “no plans or any powers” to cut thousands of teaching assistants’ jobs, education minister Liz Truss has claimed.

She said there was a “misconception” about the future of teaching assistants (TAs) following reports suggesting that jobs would be cut to save money and to allow more teachers to be hired.

Replying to a Westminster Hall debate today, Ms Truss said: “I can absolutely assure you and your colleagues that neither the Department for Education (DfE) nor the government has any plans or any powers to do this.”

Media reports last year said that the Treasury was looking to cut the DfE’s budget by axeing school support staff. In June, the right-leaning think tank Reform said that schools could improve value for money by reducing the number of TAs and increasing class sizes.

Unison, the union representing the majority of school support staff, was so concerned about the prospect of huge job losses that it launched a campaign to support TAs.

Ms Truss said that the government wanted to do more to help schools get the best from them. Guidance and case studies would be issued to schools this year.

More than 200,000 assistants were employed in 2012, up from 97,000 in 2005, MPs heard. Their work includes improving pupils’ literacy and numeracy skills, helping children with special and complex needs, and reducing teachers’ stress and improving morale, the minister said.

“All of us want to see a highly-trained, highly-skilled teacher and teaching assistant workforce – that is our aim,”  Ms Truss added.

She said that the best results were achieved by headteachers who were given the freedom to use their resources but were also inspected and subjected to “external accountability”.

Schools must ensure the skills, background and qualifications of a TA match their needs and are deployed according to their expertise, she said.

Kevin Brennan, shadow education minister, told the debate that it had been reported that the Treasury and the DfE were considering getting rid of classroom assistants to save around £4 billion a year.” (Harrison, 2014, lines 1 – 32)

whdCaptureYou can read a transcript of the full debate in the Commons Hansard; you can watch it on Parliament TV and explore the topics of teaching or schools more fully at this link – transcript, TV and further info

Was your MP at this debate? Do you know what your MP’s attitude is to the value of teaching assistants?


Harrison, D. (2014) ‘There are no plans to cut teaching assistants’ insists education minister Liz Truss. TES. March 18th. [online] Available from: http://news.tes.co.uk/b/news/2014/03/18/39-government-has-no-plans-to-cut-teaching-assistants-39-insists-liz-truss.aspx [Accessed 19/3/14]

March 16, 2014
by Jean

National debate on the value of TAs!

On Tuesday 18th March Alex Cunningham, Mp for Stockton North, has been granted a 90 minute Westminster Hall debate on ‘the value of Teaching Assistants’. This will take place from 9.30 – 11am.







Westminster Hall, Houses of Parliament

According to Mark D’Arcy, the BBC Parliamentary correspondent, this debate is aimed at ‘dispelling the attitude that they are a high cost and low return intervention in education. Instead, Mr Cunningham will argue that Teaching Assistants have huge potential to improve and enrich educational outcomes, but are currently undervalued, underpaid, and their contributions largely unrecognised’ (D’Arcy, 2014, lines 67-74).

It would be interesting to find out if this will be broadcast or if a transcript will be made of the proceedings – it is a debate of interest to us all. Do you know what your MP thinks about Teaching Assistants? Perhaps it would be worth finding out.


D’Arcy, M. (2014) Week Ahead in Westminster. [online] Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-26586117 [Accessed: 15/3/14]

March 15, 2014
by Jean

An MP is training to be a TA!

John Woodcock, MP for Barnes and Furness, is working towards a Level 3 Teaching Assistant qualification as well as being an MP.

johnYou can read his column here – Guardian 14th March 2014

In it he explains that his constituency has long term low attainment in numeracy and literacy and faces many challenges in relation to raising standards and improving the potential workforce. He is leading an initiative to improve attainment in core subjects in primary schools so that children are prepared for education at secondary school.

As part of his work towards a Level 3 qualification he must work in schools for a minimum of six hours a week – click on the link above to read about his early experiences in a Year 5 mathematics lesson.

You can follow him on twitter @JWoodcockMP

What advice would you give him, as he works in school and on his course?

March 15, 2014
by Jean

What happens after FDLT and BALT?

Fiona Wilce was a Teaching Assistant on our first year of the FDLT course more than ten years ago. She went on to gain Qualified Teacher Status and within seven years she had become a Headteacher!








Fiona was appointed Headteacher of a primary school in Rutland in September 2013.

Fiona is now helping transform the lives of more than 160 pupils at St Mary and St John C.E.V.A Primary School where they have just been ranked top of Rutland Primary Schools in the expected national standards of Level 4+ in the end of Key Stage 2 SATs.

Fiona commented:  “I have definitely found my vocation in life. I have loved every moment of my rapid teaching career, but my real passion lies in education leadership. I feel privileged to lead such a fantastic school. We are well on our way to becoming outstanding and I am incredibly proud of all the children and my amazing staff team.”

Julie Jones, Head of Division at the University of Northampton commented: “The decision to do the Foundation Degree in Learning and Teaching started a challenging and rewarding career path for Fiona. I am so pleased that she has achieved so much in the career which she loves. It is a privilege to have shared in Fiona’s tremendous commitment and enthusiasm whilst she studied at the University of Northampton and I am delighted that she is using her expertise to inspire children’s learning.”

Fiona has also led the school to great sporting achievements in the county with Year 5/6 Girls Football, Year 5/6 Tag Rugby and three pupils selected to represent Rutland at Twickenham. Both Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 teams won the Gymnastics competition overall with many individual medals in the different disciplines too. Fiona received the prestigious ‘Outstanding Contribution to Primary School Sport Award’ in the summer from her previous Sports Partnership in Leicestershire.

The Ofsted Report concluded: “The head teacher has made a very positive start, has quickly established high expectations, built trusting relationships with staff and parents and is leading the school effectively… Good and sometimes outstanding teaching helps the pupils make rapid progress… and pupils’ attainment is above average in reading, writing and maths.”

If you are a graduate from the FDLT / BALT we would love to hear and share your story – do get in touch.

March 5, 2014
by Jean

We are showing Project Wild Thing!

Have you heard or read about the film by David Bond called ‘Project Wild Thing’?





You can read more about Project Wild Thing on the website where it is explained that “Project Wild Thing is a film led movement to get more kids (and their folks!) outside and reconnecting with nature. The film is an ambitious, feature-length documentary that takes a funny and revealing look at a complex issue, the increasingly disparate connection between children and nature. ”

If you are involved in or interested in outdoor learning this film and the discussion around it is relevant to you.

On Tuesday March 25th 2014 the Early Years Partnership are showing the film in Holdenby Lecture  Theatre 1, Park Campus at 6pm. Refreshements available from 5.30pm.

To book a place email earlyinspirations@northampton.ac.uk or ring 01604 893606.