Now one of our Senior Assessors at HLTA North as well as a  School Workforce Development Officer in Stockton-on Tees, Judith was one of the first TAs to gain HLTA status more than 15 years ago.

I started working in school as a parent helper and soon became a member of the PTA and Parent Governor. My experience in these roles led me to see Learning Support as an area of work that I would enjoy and to which I could contribute. I was interested in school and how children developed and I wanted to support my own children by understanding what was happening in school and transferring that knowledge to their lives outside school. By 2003, as a Teaching Assistant in Key Stage 2; my role focussed on ICT (the Government at the time had just rolled out funding for IT in schools). I was also working with the community – involving parents in family learning in an EAZ (Education Action Zone) area.

In 2004, I was nominated by the Action Zone in collaboration with my Head teacher for Teaching Awards Teaching Assistant of the Year. The process was similar to the model used these days by HLTA North and the HLTA National Partnership to select Regional and National “HLTAs of the Year” so I was initially nominated for the Regional Award and then progressed to the National Final. It was very exciting as they sent a TV crew to the school for the day, filming and the panel from the Teaching Awards interviewed children and staff –  an interesting process!  2004 was a really exciting year as I was also awarded an MBE for ‘Services to Education – very proud to receive this!

When the HLTA status was introduced, my local EAZ put six people forward for the pilot – the first thing I had to do was very quickly go and take my “Level Twos” for Literacy and Numeracy! I wanted to get involved with HLTA as I felt it validated and acknowledged ‘who I was’ and the ‘job I was doing’. To this day, for those who go through the process, it is still the same; it instils confidence and self-confidence. HLTA is more than a job, it’s about who you are.’

My role today is nothing like it was but the award of HLTA status gave me the confidence to do things I had not even tried before! I went on from HLTA in 2004 to get a degree in Education Studies from Teesside University and a PGCE in Adult Learning (QTLS Status). I now work for Stockton Local Authority supporting others to do what I managed to do.   I talk to people about their role and encourage them to reflect upon what they do and why. I help Learning Support Staff to see where they fit into the Teaching and Learning spectrum. The reflection part is really important, as it makes them think about what they do and why they do particular things in a particular way – it helps individuals unpick their practice and behaviour. I also helps people explore where they want to go and how they can get there in terms of their careers,  advising about qualifications and routes. HLTA is a good starting point for many who want to go further.

I feel that HLTA is still strong; there are still lots of people coming forward for assessment and the status is valued in schools. Many universities recognise its value and are prepared to award points for HLTA as ‘Accredited Prior Learning’. Last year, I developed a Longer Route Pathway for HLTA North that offer a more formal and personalised level of development and support. [see Courses]

One thing is I have observed throughout the past ten years is that achieving HLTA Status creates a thirst for knowledge – and I am so pleased to still be part of this process!