From 1 April 2016, it was a legal requirement for all learning supporters in Wales to be registered with EWC. We caught up with Annette Sallis, who works as a high level teaching assistant at Crownbridge primary school in Cwmbrân, a special day school which educates children and young people with severe learning difficulties, where she gave us an insight to the day-to-day life of a learning support worker.
- Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
I am a high level teaching assistant who has worked for 32 years in a special school, I started my career as a nursery nurse before progressing to high level teaching assistant ten years ago.
- What made you want to work as an LSW?
I grew up knowing that I wanted to work with children and chose to do my NNEB training after I left school in 1980. I enjoyed the variety of workplace experiences we had ie, mainstream, social services, and special schools.
- How long have you been in your role?
I have worked in this school for 32 years, however I can honestly say that no two days are the same and over the years I have worked with a wide variety of students from as young as 2 to 19 years of age and within every department the school.
- What does your school offer for children with additional learning needs, and what kinds of children do you work with?
I work with students with a very diverse range of special needs from general developmental delay/moderate learning difficulties to students with profound and multiple learning difficulties. We offer excellent facilities in terms of the buildings and make-up of the school as we were lucky enough to have a new build around 8 years ago. The large workforce all receive in-house training throughout the year on a variety of relevant subjects i.e. autism, manual handling, behaviour management, sign language etc, so all staff are up to date with current procedures, information and teaching methods. We have visiting professionals who provide music therapy, physiotherapy, pet therapy and more.
- Describe the day to day running of affairs in your department
As a HLTA I am required to work through all departments of school and it's a very flexible role. I work in classes for teachers to have PPA, I may deliver a touch therapy session, a sensory lesson, art session - whatever suits the needs of the children in a particular class to enable them to learn and develop.
I also have sessions where I am based at my desk as I have responsibility for manual handling assessments of students, managing external students and volunteers who wish to come to our school to gain skills and knowledge to further their careers.
- What's the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Without a doubt the most rewarding aspect of my role is seeing the students leaving Crownbridge as sensible and responsible young adults having overcome many challenges on their way and knowing that a small part of that is down to the hard work put in by the staff as they pass through the school. A feeling that however small the help and guidance may be is 'it was all worth it.'
- What's the most frustrating/challenging aspect of your job?
Working in a special school can be frustrating and challenging as there is a lot of repetition in the things we do. Our students take longer to absorb and learn new things, however, a sense of humour and a caring attitude helps you through even the most difficult aspect of the job.
- Do you have any advice for anyone thinking about working as an LSW or TA for ADL pupils?
I think without a doubt you will need a sense of humour as you will face frustrations but we have good class teams and there is always someone to chat with about issues.
The role is also very flexible and you never know what tomorrow may bring.
- How does being an LSW differ from being a teacher?
Practically as a LSW, I think the main difference is that you can leave your job at the door whereas teachers have overall responsibility and so will be required to do hours over and beyond the school day. In school, teachers are responsible for planning teaching and learning whereas LSWs deliver the lessons and activities. As a HLTA I plan lessons but follow the topics from the class teacher.
- Is there anything else you'd like to say about your role?
LSW / HLTA is a very rewarding job and it has changed in many ways beyond recognition from my first role as a nursery nurse, but the children who are the centre of the school are now enjoying wide-ranging and varied activities and quality learning opportunities daily.Seeing our ex-pupils out in the community living independently and happily from their families is the best reward I can ask for.