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Growing up in a slum in Manila, I realise the importance of education towards social mobility. And so, ever since as a child, I knew that I wanted to get into teaching – to help young people achieve their full potential.
I have finally achieved this childhood dream when I became a psychology lecturer in 2009, until 2013 when I moved to the UK to do my MSc degree. After graduating, I soon worked on a number of non-academic jobs before I finally landed a job as a learning support coach at a local college.
My experiences have inspired me to share my insights to help people who also would like to be in this role.
What is a learning support coach?
Like any job applicant, I did a bit of research about the role, before finally clicking that ‘apply button’.
There are a range of names used for this role: my job title, for instance, is ‘learning support coach’; while others call it ‘learning support assistant’, ‘teaching assistant’, ‘learning assistant’, ‘special educational needs (SEN) assistant’, etc.
I’ll just call it LSC (learning support coach), since that is my job title.
But whatever the job title may be, it is certainly a challenging and rewarding role which involves supporting students who have learning difficulties to cope with mainstream education.
An LSC works alongside a class teacher in either a primary or a secondary school, or in my case at a college. They might work one-to-one with individual learners or with a small group.
Sometimes LSCs have particular skills. For instance, they may speak an additional language (which is especially useful when some learners have that as their first language).
One advantage of this job is that you normally work regular school hours, Monday to Friday, but is term-time only. However, they may sometimes have to be at school for training days or parents’ evenings. Full-time salaries range from £10,000 to £15,000, depending on experience and responsibilities. Many teaching assistants work part-time.
In the UK, there are no compulsory qualifications to become an LSC. Instead, the emphasis is on personal attributes. However, you may benefit from qualifications in early years. Also, you may be able to start as a trainee through an apprenticeship scheme.
LSCs are part of a growing international trend towards paraprofessionals working in public services. Recently, there has been controversy over TAs’ deployment and appropriate role when supporting the learning of pupils with SEN in mainstream schools.
Qualities of an effective learning support assistant
There are many personal qualities that are expected from an LSC, but here are some of them that one should possess in order to carry out the role more effectively:
- As an LSC you should possess a genuine sense of caring and understanding towards learners who have special needs.
- Classrooms, where learners have SEN, can be quite unpredictable so an LSC must be able to cope with it on most occasions and with a sense of urgency.
- Although LSCs are working under the guidance of the teacher, there would be several instances when the LSC would be expected to work on their own initiative.
- LSCs should have lots of patience – and I mean lots of patience.
- You should continually seek ways to become a better LSC.
There are many resources that can help you familiarise about the role and background of an LSC, and the ‘best practice’ teaching and learning skills used by LSC working in SEN schools to support learners with additional needs.
Ultimately, the children – with whom these LSCs work with – their education and life chance opportunities, will be developed.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.
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