Portsmouth schools recruit classroom superstars thanks to innovative scheme

Left to right: Alison Perry and Courteney Parker

A new initiative to recruit teaching assistants in schools has launched with the aim of filling urgent vacancies in primary and secondary settings, after an initial trial resulted in two new people joining local schools.

Teach Portsmouth, a Portsmouth City Council service, launched the trial which saw over 50 people attend five sessions, resulting in more applications for teaching assistant vacancies.

The scheme will now be rolled out to other schools who are exhibiting at the Teach Portsmouth Jobs and Opportunities Fair at Portsmouth Guildhall on Monday 22nd May from 10am – 2pm.

Councillor Suzy Horton, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Children, Families and Education at Portsmouth City Council said “There is an urgent need to encourage kind and compassionate people to support pupils in the classroom. Teach Portsmouth has focused their efforts to recruit teaching assistants by organising information events.

“Most people haven’t attended a school since being a student – so this new taster scheme is the perfect opportunity to find out about careers in a school or college. Each taster session is designed to build confidence before people apply for a job.”

Taster sessions normally last no more than a few hours with each school supervising those who attend. The visit is restricted to meeting staff only with the opportunity to attend a short presentation about working at the school. There is no direct contact with pupils during the session.

Courteney Parker, who attended a taster session and now works as a teaching assistant at Trafalgar School said “The Teach Portsmouth event was extremely helpful as I was told about what opportunities were available in the city. I knew I wanted to work in a secondary school but didn’t know where to start.

“Trafalgar School was exhibiting at the event and spoke about their taster sessions. I signed up and attended one the next day.

“At the taster session, I met the team who I would work with – they were friendly and welcoming. We were told more information about the school and their job vacancies. I was given a tour of the school and loved what I saw. It was everything I was looking for. I filled in an application form for the teaching assistant role, invited to an interview and got the job.

“If you’ve been thinking about working in a school, I would highly recommend attending a taster session as it prepares you for what comes next.”

Working in a school is a rewarding and challenging experience that requires the right person to apply. Support and site staff can specialise and progress in their roles with schools and colleges offering training and development opportunities including apprenticeships and short courses. For some people, supporting children as a volunteer is equally as important, if they have time to spare.

Alison Perry, who became a volunteer at Penbridge School after attending a taster session, said “As a parent, I have learned a lot about how children grow and develop, and the impact effective support and communication can have on their education. As my children have grown, it has inspired me to help other children in a support role.

“I had already begun to consider the possibility of becoming a teaching assistant, and when I saw that the Thinking Schools Academy Trust was offering a taster session, I jumped at the chance. I have three children who go to schools run by the academy – so I have a huge appreciation for their work. I knew it was something I wanted to be part of.

“I think volunteering is an incredibly inspiring thing to do. If anyone has the time, I believe that it is very worthwhile, and very positive for your mental health to know that you are making a difference to other people.

As part of the Teach Portsmouth Jobs and Opportunities Fair, a series of information sessions will be held inside the Opportunities Room at the event. To help people time their visit, Teach Portsmouth has published a schedule for the presentations:

  • 10:30am – 10:50am – Earn while you learn: Apprenticeships in schools
  • 11:10am – 11:30am – How to become a teaching assistant?
  • 11:50am – 12:10am – How to get a job in a school?
  • 12:30pm – 12:50pm – International students: advice on how to get a non-teaching job?
  • 1:10pm – 1:30pm – Need a job with flexibility? Learn about your options in education
  • 1:40pm – 2pm – How to become a teaching assistant?

People wanting to attend the fair must register for a ticket online. Exhibitors will be showcasing their vacancies, training and volunteering options throughout the day. For more information about the event and to get your ticket, visit www.teachportsmouth.co.uk/events.