Remote teaching assistants to help pupils after Covid disruption

Suffolk County Council has dished out more than 800 laptops and 100 4G hotspots to help children with their schooling at...

Suffolk County Council has dished out more than 800 laptops and 100 4G hotspots to help children with their schooling at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCK PHOTO - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

An army of remote learning assistants is being recruited in Ipswich to help pupils forced to self-isolate during the Covid-19 pandemic catch up on lost teaching.

And additional support for teaching assistants, who education leaders say have proven instrumental in the coronavirus crisis, has also been established.

The Ipswich Opportunity Area - a government programme to support projects boosting education prospects in the town - is recruiting 18 people called remote learning support assistants, whose job will be to work directly with pupils and families who have fallen behind during the pandemic.

It aims to help give confidence and reassurance to parents as well as support the pupils themselves, and can include access to digital work platforms, and social and emotional support.

Meanwhile the Suffolk Teaching Assistant (TA) Network launched this week offering support, skills training and career progression for teaching assistants countywide.

Abi Joachim, Suffolk TA Network co-ordinator, has been a TA at Westbourne Academy in Ipswich. She said the idea was an extension of a programme designed to help schools make the best use of teaching assistants.

Suffolk Teaching Assistant Network co-ordinator Abi Joachim

Suffolk Teaching Assistant Network co-ordinator Abi Joachim - Credit: Abi Joachim

"We really felt that TAs needed more support, professional development and to raise the profile," she said.

"Schools recognise us but more widely sometimes people still see them as they were when they first started, mums that did a bit of reading. But it has become a crucial profession."

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She added: "Our TAs were really instrumental in their support in the first lockdown with a lot of our children with learning needs who really struggled to access work from home."

"This is going to be really, really crucial to ensuring that catch-up will happen and they don't get negatively impacted."

Government opportunity area funding of £180,000 is being used to recruit the new remote learning assistants, with a further £30,000 helping the new TA Network. Suffolk County Council is also supporting the scheme.

Jackie Bircham, programme director with the Ipswich Opportunity Area, said that having some pupils in schools and others having to isolate had proved a challenges for schools, which the TAs and learning assistants are helping address.

"Covid is the moment when we started to appreciate how important they are," she said.

"Good teaching is what we have always known is the thing to do to give a child their best chance. But TAs break down the barriers to learning, and there are so many of those right now. This is their time."

Two events are planned for teaching assistants to find out more about the network, from 12.30-1.45pm on January 14, and 1.30-2.45pm on January 19, with more information and booking available by emailing or online here.