Empowering Your Learning Support Assistants

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Rob King

Following University, Rob worked as a TA within an SEND Department, working with a wide range of students with various needs. He then completed his PGCE in History at the Institute of Education, London. He had the opportunity to train with amazing and inspiring colleagues,...
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Are you supporting your support staff?

Learning Support Assistants (LSAs) go by many names depending on your school, Multi Academy Trust, or Local Authority. Whatever you know them as, one thing is constant. A good LSA, with the right guidance, can be absolutely key to a productive and supportive classroom.

Unsung Heroes

Learning Support Assistants and the wider support staff within a school are arguably the beating heart of a school. Research out of UCL suggests that without LSAs and wider support staff, schools would have failed to function throughout the lockdowns of recent years.

It is vital that we draw on this and empower our LSAs to work alongside teachers for the benefit of all our pupils.

The important thing for all teachers and school leaders is that we seek to:

  1. Empower our LSAs.
  2. Deploy them effectively.
  3. Draw on their experience (which can eclipse many teachers!).
  4. Support them in whatever it is we have asked them to do.

It has always held true that if you look after your support staff, they will look after you (and your school).

Current Issues

LSAs are notoriously undervalued, under-utilised and underappreciated.

Schools across the country face budget restraints, inspection pressures and drives for pupil progress. Yet so many school leaders and teachers fail to use their LSAs effectively. When used well, an LSA can make a significant impact on the outcomes of a class or a group of students.

The resources (e.g EEF guidance), are already there, and the staff are already employed. Time to deploy them effectively.

First Steps

  1. Recognise: Empowering LSAs starts with the simple act of recognising their contribution to the school. Being aware of all those unseen acts that support our pupils.
  2. Raise: Next, raise their profiles. It is disheartening to see LSAs thought of as ‘less than’ by pupils and worse, by teaching colleagues. Pupils (and some staff) need to understand that LSAs provide a valuable contribution to school life. Albeit often in a different way to teachers.
  3. Reorganise: Give your LSAs a clearly defined role; are they to support an individual pupil, a specific group, a certain demographic, a faculty or a teacher. School leaders should think carefully about how to productively deploy their LSAs.

In the Classroom

  1. Reach out: Change how you approach the use of LSAs in your classroom. Reach out to your LSA ahead of a lesson; share your planning, your resources, your expectations. A prepared LSA is a powerful LSA. Make sure your LSA has the key ‘need to knows’ ahead of the lesson.
  2. Rethink: The days of LSAs simply being used for informal teaching of students needing extra support are long gone. Instead, use them to facilitate and develop student independence. They should be used to deliver high-quality, structured interventions. Perhaps, it is the teacher as the most qualified person, who should be focusing on those who need the most scaffolding.
  3. Refocus: Make the LSAs you work with a visible part of the teaching and learning, whether that’s using them to bounce ideas off, or asking them to scribe student answers on a whiteboard. LSAs will add value to what you are already doing if effectively deployed.

Big Picture

  1. Reinvest: Reinvest in training for your LSAs and teachers. LSAs could benefit from more involvement in the teaching and learning, or behaviour management provision within a school. Some teachers could benefit from greater training on how to deploy support staff (an often-overlooked section of the Teachers’ Standards).
  2. Regalvanise: The education machine requires many moving parts, both great and small. The only way it works is by working together. Enthuse your teams with this idea that all teachers, LSAs, and wider support staff are all integral parts in the smooth and effective operation of a school.

The essence of LSAs being empowered and used effectively is key to a productive classroom.  Empower your LSAs to raise their profile, involving them in the planning process and deploying them in structured, supported ways.

Make learning support assistants fully utilised and appreciated in your school!


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