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WIN a 12 month subscription to Storytime magazine!

Storytime magazine publishers have generously agreed to provide a lucky winner with a 12 month subscription for their school!

Storytime is a vibrant, colourful and exciting magazine, encouraging children to fall in love with books. Each edition includes lots of short stories, puzzles and games.

Read more about the magazine




** This competition has now closed **

What is your favourite children’s story and why?

To enter this competition, please leave a reply below with your answer. That’s it!


Terms and conditions:

  • The closing date for all entrants is 7th August 2015.
  • We will notify the winner by email after the closing date, who will receive a 12 month subscription to Storytime magazine for his/her school.
  • The competition is open to UK residents only and the winner will need to provide a UK school address.
  • The prize is offered as stated and is non-exchangeable or transferable. No cash alternatives will be provided.
  • Your email address is required for the competition and will not be shared with any third parties.
  • We reserve the right to pick an alternative winner if the original winner does not contact us within 14 working days of being told they have won.
  • The prize is only open to entrants aged 18 or over.
  • We reserve the right to cancel or suspend the prize at any point, without liability to the prize-giver or winner.
  • Our decision is final on all matters and we will not enter into any further correspondence.
  • By entering, you agree to be bound by these rules in relation to this competition.

Falling in love with reading…using Storytime magazine!

It can be difficult engaging children when it comes to reading. Developing literacy skills is often a challenge for parents as well as teachers. When I was a child, I adored the Story Teller series and can still recount most of my favourite stories, along with their illustrations. Colourful graphics and simple exercises that engage the reader play pivotal roles when encouraging children to read.

Storytime magazine does just this.

With its fifty odd pages of stories, puzzles and games, it is the ideal tool for accompanied reading. The images are vibrant, immensely colourful and tell each story with charm.
Aimed at Early Years to KS2, stories are in abundance and each has an simple optional exercise to follow, along with other facts associated with the story. When reading through, I noticed the distinct lack of adverts – no unnecessary distractions!

The magazine has become significantly popular with TAs in recent months and it’s not hard to see why. TAs have found Storytime magazine a considerable help when it comes to helping children to read. The stories are short enough to hold a child’s attention span and the puzzles/games are exciting and adventurous. Not to mention, the production quality is better than any magazine I’ve ever purchased!

Some points to consider:

  • Suitable for boys and girls up to year 4.
  • Great for reluctant readers, where a magazine format might be more engaging for them than a book.
  • Wide range of short stories in each issue means there’s something for everyone.
  • The focus on traditional tales is a perfect fit with the curriculum.
  • Each story is checked by a literacy expert.
  • Puzzles and activities in each issue to keep children’s attention and bring the stories to life.
  • No adverts!
  • Printed on good quality paper so each issue lasts a long time.
  • Ofsted recommend that schools encourage pupils to read more widely for pleasure and develop policies to promote it both at school and at home, and Storytime works really well here.

For more information, visit the Storytime magazine website or for a free sample copy, please contact hello@storytimemagazine.com


Subscription Offer!

** Up to 35% discount off a year’s subscription, plus a free issue! 

Simply visit www.storytimemagazine.com/tafocus and choose your subscription.

This offer ends 30.09.2015 and is available to UK residents only. It may be withdrawn at the publisher’s discretion and the discount is only applied to annual subscriptions of 12 issues. TA Focus does not benefit financially from any subscriptions purchased. **

Teaching Assistant Book Reviews

We would like to know more about TA/SEN related books you have read, which have helped developed your knowledge or improved skills in the classroom. A number of great titles have been recommended to us since this website was launched and we would like to review the most popular.

If you have any recommendations, please let us know by commenting below or sending us an email – contact@tafocus.co.uk


Free QTS Numeracy Skills Test ebook for TAs who want to become teachers…

Some Teaching Assistants may be considering a move into teaching. To qualify as a teacher, one needs to obtain qualified teacher status (QTS), by passing a series of assessments. Part of the assessment requires trainee teachers pass the QTS Numeracy Skills Test and the QTS Literacy Skills Test.

Some prospective teachers can find it a little daunting revisiting maths, but there are numerous help guides available.

Tom O’Toole, author of Guide to the QTS Numeracy Skills Test, is offering his new ebook free this week (24th – 27th February 2015).

The ebook is packed with typical questions asked in the test, with answers and explanations. Also included are top tips and practice tests!

If you think this ebook may be useful, download it for free this week (24th – 27th February 2015).

Tom O’Toole is interested in knowing more about teaching resources, so if you have any suggestions – links, organisations etc – please comment below.

This offer has now ended.

Copies of The Teaching Assistant’s Pocketbook to win!


Teachers’ Pocketbooks have generously provided TA Focus with 10 copies of The Teaching Assistant’s Pocketbook by Dot Constable.

This competition has now ended.

To win one of these books, all you have to do is ‘leave a reply’ at the bottom of the page with the reason you have become (or intend on becoming) a Teaching Assistant.

You don’t have to give your real name, but please give a valid email address.

Competition Terms & Conditions below.


About Teacher’s Pocketbooks

Teachers’ Pocketbooks, launched in 2003, areTeachers' Pocketbook Logo intended to aid classroom teachers and support staff with practical information, ideas and expertise on a number of topics.

Teaching Assistants Pocketbook

They are cute postcard-sized reads with the added bonus of cartoons!

The Teaching Assistant’s Pocketbook is one of 40 Teachers’ Pocketbooks available from Teachers’ Pocketbooks at £8.99 + p&p!


Competition Terms & Conditions

  • The closing date for all entrants is 1st March 2015.
  • We will notify ten winners, by email, after the closing date, who will receive one copy of the book each.
  • Our competition is open to UK residents only and winners will need to provide a UK address to send the prize.
  • The prize is offered as stated and is non-exchangeable or transferable. No cash alternatives will be provided.
  • Your email address is required for the competition and will not be shared with any third parties.
  • We reserve the right to pick an alternative winner if the original winner does not contact us within 14 working days of being told they have won.
  • The prize is only open to entrants aged 18 or over.
  • We reserve the right to cancel or suspend the prize at any point, without liability to the prize-giver or winner.
  • Our decision is final on all matters and we will not enter into any further correspondence.
  • By entering, you agree to be bound by these rules in relation to this competition.

Thinking Child TA Conference on 26th March 2015, Northampton

Make a note in the diary…

Thinking Child TA Conference details

When children are ‘switched on’ to reading, we know it becomes a key component in raising achievement.

This day seeks to acknowledge the talent and influence that teaching assistants can have on children’s attitudes to reading and how to make the most of good quality texts.

Speakers & workshops include:

  • Steve Bowkett – Writer, Trainer and Hypnotherapist
  • Dr Clare Wood – Professor of Psychology in Education and Director of Centre for Research in Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement
  • Richenda Riches – Teacher from Norfolk Children’s Book Centre
  • Sarah Gallagher – Ex Headteacher and founder of Story Shack
  • Gez Walsh – Performance Poet
  • Tricia Adams – National School Library Association

>> Full details about the TA conference <<


There are early bird prices, but we have negotiated a further 5% off on your behalf! Simply email info@thinkingchild.org.uk or call 01604 491511 and mention ‘TA Focus’ (TA Focus is not affiliated in any way).

Winner of Thinking Child’s TA of the Year award

And the winner is….

We are pleased to announce the winners of our TA of the Year Award.

Congratulations to Sue Girdlestone from St Andrew’s C E Primary School in Salford.
And to the two runners up: Hayley Keys and Jacqui Schroeder

Full details can be found on the website:

Thank you if you took the time to nominate someone. I’m only sorry we couldn’t send a gift to every single TA who was nominated.

I work with a lot of TAs, so I am constantly reminded of their hard work and dedication – in schools up and down the country. Deciding where these prizes should go was a very difficult decision.

One of the prizes was a copy of our new publication – ‘Top Tips for TAs’ (Supporting Literacy).
It provides TAs with essential time savers and useful reminders – to make their life a bit less hectic and therefore classroom practice more efficient and effective.

Individual hard copies are £11.99 – with free delivery
** There is a 10% discount for schools who would like to buy multiple copies for their TAs as well as a digital version for just £6.99

Email for more information: info@thinkingchild.org.uk
Or Tel: 01604 491511

Foundation Degrees for Teaching Assistants – Frequently Asked Questions

Foundation Degrees for Teaching Assistants – FAQs

By Jean Edwards, Senior Lecturer, School of Education, University of Northampton.

Jean EdwardsI am a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Northampton. I’m also Admissions Tutor for the Foundation Degree Learning and Teaching so I meet and talk to many volunteers, Teaching Assistants and HLTAs who want to develop their roles in school and their own education. I also teach on the FD and BA courses and I’ve enjoyed seeing our students go to achieve their ambitions personally and professionally.

I was a teacher, deputy head then head teacher in primary and lower schools for nearly twenty years and I have also written about teaching of mathematics, English and Art. My most recently published book was ‘Teaching Primary Art’ by Pearson in 2013.

Contact Jean at Jean.edwards@northampton.ac.uk, follow her on Twitter @JeanEd70 and keep an eye on the FDLT blog.


What is a Foundation Degree?

A Foundation Degree is university level academic study alongside employment in a workplace. Most Foundation Degrees in areas of education would require you to be employed in an educational setting for a proportion of each week. Foundation Degrees take a minimum of two years (longer if you are studying part-time). You would have the opportunity to develop your skills, knowledge and understanding in relation to your work-based role, often learning the theory that underpins your practice. You are likely to develop your existing role in your workplace and begin to consider the next steps in your career.

How will a Foundation Degree support me in my current role and future career?

In your current role a Foundation Degree can be an opportunity for you explore the theory and research that underpins children’s learning and develop the strategies you use to support their learning. You also have the chance to work with fellow students in other educational settings and appreciate the wider world of education in which your role and setting are based.

Some student comments:

Gemma said:

‘Here are a couple of ways in which the foundation degree has impacted my current role…I learned so much through the Foundation Degree.  One area of learning that continues to impact my role today is that of reflective practice. Learning how to reflect means that I am continually improving the support I give children through in school, which benefits the children and gives me a sense of achievement and satisfaction in my role.  The Foundation Degree also developed my skills and knowledge in the core subjects enabling me to support children in these lessons with greater confidence than before.’

Siobhan said:

Balancing work with study has been challenging yet very rewarding. The degree has enabled me to develop Literacy and time management skills and I have been able to gain a comprehensive understanding of the workings of a school being able to research education theories in the learning environment.’

Ayesha said:

‘The thought of starting back at University learning was very daunting. However, as I became engaged with the Foundation Degree sessions, I found myself thriving for more information and knowledge. It has permitted me to enhance my role at my setting with all the new and updated information, strategies and examples from the different members of the cohort. It has shown me that I am able to implement most of my learning in my every day teaching. Likewise, it obligates me to confidently help bring changes to the learning and teaching of the children and nonetheless my colleagues at my setting. The head teacher also encourages these positive changes. Therefore this Foundation Degree has not only helped me gain academically, but has made me self-assured and now I am undertaking the Top up BALT Year.’

Many students who complete Foundation Degrees go on study for a ‘top-up’ to achieve their BA (Hons). This usually follows a similar study pattern as the Foundation Degree. Having an Honours degree could support you in applying for other professional courses, such as for Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and is a minimum level of education for many roles in support and education.

Students who have completed the BALT at the University of Northampton have gone on to become primary teachers, assistant head teachers and we also have a head teacher amongst our graduates. Our graduates have developed their careers in others areas than class teaching: a secondary head of year, a music technology teacher, a trainer in the NHS and as SENCos in schools.

Videos of students who have completed a Foundation Degree


How do I know if I am ready to apply for a Foundation Degree?

Most Foundation Degrees would have some admissions criteria such as:

  • A Level 3 qualification (BTec, NVQ, NNEB, A levels, HLTA)
  • A number of years’ experience in your area of work (paid or voluntary)
  • The support of your employer (who will be asked for a reference)
  • Some GCSEs (English, Mathematics and Science) might be part of the criteria and would also be important for those planning to go further towards QTS.

When applicants apply for the Foundation Degree learning and teaching at the University of Northampton they are invited for interview so that they can meet the tutors and explore their readiness to start the course. Sometimes applicants are ready to begin the course at the beginning of the next academic year; for others they might spend some time ensuring that they have all of the requirements in place. When we interview applicants the morning consists of a group discussion, some basic literacy and numeracy tests and an individual interview.

What support do I need from my employer?

Your employer would have to release you from work to attend the course. Some support from your workplace, perhaps by providing a work-based mentor, might be a course expectation. You would have to provide a reference from your employer stating that they support your application.

Beyond this it would be important that your workplace understood and encouraged you in your studies.

Many schools have supported students on the FDLT over more than ten years. Schools seem to appreciate the opportunity to support their teaching assistants and HLTAs in their development as professionals in the education workforce. In my own school I found the TA who studied her FDLT developed her confidence, her skills and her initiative – seeing areas where she could support children and suggesting strategies we could put in place and carrying these out with positive effects on children’s learning.

One of our local Headteachers who supported memebers of staff on the Foundation Degree Learning and Teaching said:

Two aspects of FDLT appealed to me as a headteacher: firstly, the idea of ‘growing our own’. When you spot a TA with the potential to become a teacher, what could be better than to help train someone in whom you already have confidence and who knows your institution? But, it also provides the opportunity of valuable CPD and that can make a real difference in the classroom. The gain in confidence from study and from working with other like-minded TAs is visible and so beneficial for all concerned.

Where can I do a Foundation Degree?

Many universities offer Foundation Degrees and some universities also offer these at other sites (local colleges and schools) that might be nearer than your nearest university.

How do I fund a Foundation Degree?

Foundation Degrees, like other Higher Education studies, are usually funded through your application for Tuition Fee Loans and Maintenance Loans and Grants.

You can find out more about this at the Student Loans Company website – http://www.slc.co.uk/

What is university study like?

On a Foundation Degree it is likely that you would study modules designed to explore aspects of your role such as professional studies; the curriculum and how children learn; inclusion, special educational needs and diversity and some work-based learning related to your setting.

When at university you would often work with other students, furthering your knowledge and understanding through taught sessions, discussion and practical learning experiences. You would be expected to pursue independent learning outside taught sessions based around directed study, reading and preparation of assignments.

University study is assessed through written assignments such as essays and projects; work-based activities such as portfolios of evidence; presentations and online discussions.

You can get a sense of some of the activities that are part of the learning experience by looking on the FDLT blog here – http://mypad.northampton.ac.uk/fdlt2012/

Foundation Degrees in education – some examples of titles:

Childhood and Learning Support Studies, Community Learning, Early Childhood Studies, Early Years Studies, Early Years (Sector Endorsed), Education in Context, Foundation Degree in Childhood Studies, Inclusive Studies for TAs, Learning and Teaching, Learning Assistants in Secondary Schools, Learning Support (Teaching and Learning), Professional Practice (Early Years), Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools, Working with Children, Working with Children and Young People in Education

For more information about the Foundation Degree Learning and Teaching (FDLT) at the University of Northampton, check out their blog – http://mypad.northampton.ac.uk/fdlt2012/applying-for-fdlt.

Responding to Reading by Thinking Child

Thinking Child aims to produce creative resources and training opportunities for colleagues, children and parents.

This article discusses some great reading ideas/activities!


‘Responding to Reading: Fun activities to support reading skills’ by Sue Dixon, founder of Thinking Child

I’m often asked for activities that help children respond to their reading – without it necessarily having to have a formal written outcome.

Here are four simple yet effective ideas. They are designed to be adapted for different age groups and can be structured as an independent task or a planned guided session with an adult.

What they do provide are opportunities for talk – building confidence about stories, developing recognition, recall and comprehension skills.

They are all simple to prepare and children enjoy doing them more than once – which is always a bonus!

Zigzag Books

Easy to construct – good for planning into a 20 minute slot.

Children love to retell the key parts of a story in zigzag format. This can be done with children drawing pictures, writing single words or sentences.

Decorate a Character’s House

Give chidlren large sheets of paper and a corner of the classroom or a corridor space. Using the paper they have to ‘decorate’ the inside of a character’s house e.g. the inside of the Three Little Pigs house, Grandma’s house in Red Riding Hood or for older children a room from ‘Wolves in the Walls’.

They have to understand the key elements of the story, plot and/or characters to discuss what to draw. They could give ‘guided tours’ around their space to other children and adults later.

Paper Bag Theatres

White paper bags of the ‘takeaway’ variety can be bought quite cheaply (Ebay for example) and used for children to make a theatre backdrop. Along with some lolly sticks to draw characters it is a quick and easy way to retell a story, make up a sequel, add another character or make a brand new story.

A Wonder Box

Again – cheap and simple – make a ‘Wonder Box’ and give children slips of paper to write on.

They have to ask as many questions as they can about the story. This can be done just before they read it – perhaps responding to the blurb as they try to predict what the story is about ‘I wonder if…. ‘ I predict…. (not every question has to start with ‘I wonder’ – just be a question not a statement).

Or to pose questions to a character they have just read about ‘I wonder if she will…’ If he was to do this….

They post their slips of paper into the box and at a later time they go through their questions with an adult – who can help them strengthen their questioning skills and ultimately, the comprehension of the story. The Wonder Box can also be an outdoor version – even more motivational for some children.

Image courtesy of COSY (http://cosy.bagldg.com)

Thinking Child’s TA of the Year Award!

Teaching Assistant of the YearThinking Child are celebrating all TAs in the lead up to UNISON’s ‘Stars in our Schools Day’ later this month. They have put together a wonderful prize for a special Teaching Assistant and want YOU to nominate. Simply give the name of your chosen TA, their school and the reason why you think they deserve to be the ‘TA of the Year’.

The winner will be announced on the 28th November, so please nominate as soon as you can.

The prize will include:

  • a journal/notebook
  • a selection of stationery
  • a picture book
  • a large tin of biscuits!
  • a copy of Top Tips for Teaching Assistants
  • a Thinking Child mug
  • items of warm clothing
  • a Training Literacy Day (worth £1,000) for their school!

Full details and the online nomination form can be found here:

Thinking Child’s TA of the Year Award