Inspire ATA Case Study : Flexi-Job Teaching Assistant Apprenticeships in partnership with Alexander McLeod Primary School.

Alexander McLeod Primary is a diverse and vibrant three form entry school with 580 pupils in Abbey Wood, South East London

The school is hosting teaching assistant apprentices through Inspire ATA, a government approved Flexi-Job Apprenticeship Agency which recruits, employs and supports the apprentice. It’s a highly successful relationship that has become an integral part of the smooth running of the school.

Having apprentices has really become part of what we do,” says Lorraine Lucken, deputy headteacher. “We always aim to have at least 10 apprentices. It’s really cost effective for us and the apprentices inject new perspectives into our team all the time. They’ve got an energy and most of them are really up for the challenge of where we are, and they all bring something new to the team.”

Apprentices range in ages from late teens to late 20s and typically spend a year to 14 months with the school, with several going on to find permanent positions with the school. Two members of the current batch of apprentices are going on to higher level TA training and Lorraine is hoping to secure them as full-time employees once they’ve completed their training.

Hosting the apprentices means that when the school wants to employ them as members of staff it’s a seamless process because they can effectively hit the ground running. “They are tried and tested and familiar with the Alexander McLeod way,” says Lorraine. “They’re familiar with our ethos, the way we do things and the challenges our children face.”

The scheme also saves Lorraine and her colleagues precious management time. “If there are issues with the performance of an apprentice we will of course put in a support plan with Inspire ATA and if there are further issues we don’t have to go through capability procedures as this will be dealt with by Inspire ATA. It saves us a lot of management time.”

The school has increased its use of apprentices in recent years to give more experienced staff more time to deliver one to one support with the growing numbers of children with behavioural or learning needs ­– a challenge faced by many schools across the country since the pandemic. “By taking on more apprentices – we have 13 at the moment – we are freeing up our more experienced staff for that one to one support,” explains Lorraine.

“We wouldn’t expect our apprentices to be dealing with behavioural and learning needs generally so we keep new apprentices as what we call general learning support assistants but many of them have expressed an interest in working in the hub or in class. It’s clear that that several are keen for that further challenge.”

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t opportunities for TA apprentices to play some part in supporting these children. One of the current apprentices who is nearing her endpoint assessment is working in the school’s hub for behaviourally challenged children, while two former apprentices who are now employed by the school are specialising in supporting special needs children.

While the bulk of apprentice support and training is provided by Inspire ATA Lorraine and her team top that up with bite-sized training opportunities delivered at weekly staff meetings. “We’ve just had a presentation from the head of our behaviour unit who spoke to them about how to calm children when they are dysregulated,” she explains. “All of our staff attended that training, but I think it’s particularly important for our apprentices to be treated the same as the older and more experienced learning support assistants.”

Lorraine sees the partnership the school has developed with Inspire ATA as a potential solution for other schools facing challenges in recruitment of support staff. “I would definitely recommend it as long as you are committed to supporting them and nurturing your apprentices,” she says. “We are definitely continuing with this approach for the foreseeable future because it is working very well for us.”

Inspire ATA is a government approved Flexi-Job Apprenticeship Agency, approved to employ apprentices on the behalf of schools. Inspire ATA recruits, employs and arranges apprenticeship training, leaving the school to simply host apprentices. The school leases the apprentice for a monthly fee and Inspire ATA handles time-consuming management tasks such as payroll, holiday management and any employment issues.

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teaching assistant and student studying