My year at CENMAC as a Specialist Teaching Assistant

I have been working at CENMAC as a Specialist Teaching Assistant for 1 year and this month marks the end of my time with CENMAC, but as with any job that encourages development, there is no finality to what I have gained.

Everyone I have worked with has always been incredibly supportive and helpful and despite most members of the team quite often working individually (due to the nature of the job meaning our Advisory Teacher team is usually out and about on school visits), there is continually a great sense of cohesion between everyone; I am grateful to always have felt supported and by a group of genuinely genial professionals!

Specialist Teaching Assistant James Dewar-Hassan

Most used assistive technologies

I want to also extend my considerations to Clicker 8 and Clicker Writer. Out of all of the assistive technologies I have worked with, they are by far the two that I spent the most time with – we trained TA’s and teachers together and we worked with students together; both outside and inside the classroom. Having worked so closely with both versions of Clicker, I can say confidently that it is a really simple, yet powerful software and when utilised well, it is so helpful in assisting students with literacy difficulties to access the curriculum and develop their written communication. I will continue using Clicker to support children and young people throughout my career.

Whilst going into schools I have spent time with students and TA’s trying to optimise other assistive technologies. These include WordQ, Inspiration, First Keys 3, ReadingWise, EducationCity, Dragon Dictate, Microsoft Immersive Reader and a variety of Apple based apps aimed at supporting maths and literacy skills.

Working with AAC 

Additionally, I have also worked with children and young people who are using Alternative and Augmentative Communication systems (AAC). The main highlight of this being in Highshore school where I put on a small chat group with a CENMAC student who was learning the Grid, as well as some of his friends in class who had their own AAC devices (this was of course inspired by the one and only Abdi Omar!). 

Inspirational role models 

Speaking of, I would never have been able to meet so many inspiring people such as Abdi Omar, Beth Moulam, Clarke Reynolds, Arran Smith and Michael Rosen at events such as Communication Works, BETT and Tes SEND if not for working within this role. Each individual named offers invaluable insight and act as role models, particularly for our CENAMC students. I enjoyed meeting each of them and I have learnt a lot from witnessing their adaptability, drive, creativity and impact first hand.  

Specialist Teaching Assistant James supporting a student with their AAC device.
Specialist Teaching Assistant James Dewar-Hassan with Michael Rosen and photos of Clarke Reynolds, Beth Moulam, Abdi Omar and Arran Smith

Teacher Training

As I near my teacher training, I recognise how useful it has been for me to visit so many schools across London whilst doing my job. There are fundamental characteristics that link each school together, but none are wholly the same. I have done things that I previously had never, putting on training to groups of teachers for example. This was very daunting, but sometimes you need to overcome feeling uncomfortable to develop. I can say now that I feel much more confident and willing to speak in front of groups and deliver support/informative sessions (although my beads of sweat may sometimes say differently).

Goodbye and thank you

I want to thank, once again, Kathryn (Sergeant CENMAC) and all my colleagues. I have had a very enjoyable time at CENMAC and with all sincerity I cannot fault any of it. I’m happy that with my new role as a trainee teacher at Charlton Park Academy, I will still be able to visit the team and have a nosy on how things are getting on. More importantly, I am sure I will be seeking advice from all the advisory teachers when I’m in the thick of it!

Specialist Teaching Assistant James with Hitcham at Communication Works

Join the CENMAC Team!

My leaving CENMAC means that there is now an opportunity for a new Specialist Teaching Assistant. If you think that you would enjoy this role please take a look at the job description and apply.

> View job description