Vale of Glamorgan Council supports Stars in our Schools initiative
The Vale of Glamorgan Council recently helped shine a light on the work carried out by school support staff.
Managing Director Rob Thomas and Deputy Leader Lis Burnett visited Pencoedtre High as part of the Stars in our Schools initiative, organised by Unison.
This aims to recognise the contribution professionals such as support staff and learning assistants make up and down the country. Within a school, there are a vast number of people assisting teachers, both within the classroom and beyond, performing roles in areas such as catering, administration, finance, libraries and more.
Support staff play a vital role in keeping children safe at school, while they also help create a happy, healthy learning environment.
At Pencoedtre, 12-year-old Caerwyn Woods, who has autism, revealed the difference Learning Support Assistants (LSAs) have made to his life.
“If I have a test, they usually read the questions and they help me with work,” he said.
"They can’t give me the answers, but they can explain what things mean and if they weren’t there I might have just given up. Also, if anyone makes fun of me, they tell them not to do it.
“If I’m in a class and it gets too noisy I get really mad so sometimes I can go to the LRC (Learning Resource Centre) where it’s quieter. That makes a big difference.
“One time I hid in the LRC because people were being mean to me and the LSA found me and explained why I needed to go to lessons.
“If I have a problem I go to Ms Olsson, Ms Greenslade or Ms O’Connor. Before I used to get really upset, but it’s great to have people you can talk to.”
Sarah Greenslade, part of the Learning Support team at Pencoedtre High, explained the role her and colleagues play in helping pupils.
“I’ve got a room at the top of the corridor and I run groups for vulnerable pupils in break time and lunch times,” she said.
"Anyone can come in if they want to. Once, after they left, I went back in and Caerwyn was sat under the table hiding. He said he didn’t want to go to his lesson. We found out what the issue was, took him to the lesson and got him settled.
“Previously everything was just too much, now he will seek someone out if he has a problem he’s more open and really engaged with his learning.
“You’ve got to build up a really good relationship with the children. I’ve got a girl in Year 11 who’s really struggling at the moment so I started hot chocolate Friday. Everybody’s sat around and slowly she’s opening up, engaging with her friends and that’s creating a better support network for her.
“If we didn’t have LSAs here we couldn’t run the school. They are absolutely pivotal and the LSAs we have here are absolutely amazing.
“We’ve got a broad spectrum of talents, we’ve got LSAs that are good at sports or art. We’ve got someone who does a good impression of Nessa (from sitcom Gavin & Stacey). It makes people laugh and pupils think, ‘yes, I can approach her.’
“Without the LSAs many of these kids would be in a special school and not able to mingle with their peers in a mainstream setting.”