Back one May evening last year an email went out to all staff announcing an 'emergency briefing' the following morning. Rumours were rife: was the head retiring, had an ex pupil committed some heinous crime, were Ofsted descending?
None of the above proved to be true. In fact, we were told that due to national budget cuts all TAs would have to reapply for their jobs and three would be unsuccessful. In addition to this, the remaining TAs would have their hours cut and so they would now only be paid to work from 9.10 (when lessons begin) to 3.15 (when lessons end).
We have been working under this new system since September, and it is not pretty. The reduction in hours has left one of my form members, who is physically disabled, to lug her heavy equipment from the form room to lessons on her own, as nobody is in to help her with it until she should already be in her first lesson. It also means the invaluable discussions I could have with this girl's TA during form time no longer happen, and so I am somewhat out of the loop with regards to the issues she faces.
Worse though, is the effect the loss of four TAs has had on the support available to statemented pupils. It is now quite common for a TA to be assigned to three or four pupils during a one hour slot. "Well that could be worse" I initially thought to myself "a TA helping four pupils in a class is hardly a problem." What I hadn't realised was that the TAs were scheduled to be with four different pupils in different classes during that one hour.
What this means, then, is that a TA will arrive for a 15 minute slot at any given time in your lesson. I never know when this slot will be, and so planning to use them effectively is nigh-on impossible. It's also hardly helpful for those pupils with difficulties that mean they desire routine, as I'm sure you can imagine.
The TAs feel terrible about it. Three months into this new system and they still apologise to me for arriving late or leaving early. The overriding sense I get from them is that they desperately want to be able to do their jobs and help the pupils they're employed to help. But they can't.
I suppose if one positive thing has come out of this, it's renewed appreciation for the job a TA does across our school. Unfortunately though, I fear this appreciation is too little, too late and that these are only signs of worse things to come for SEN provision.