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Knowing when to step back

In our previous blog post on education support workers, Rebecca made some great points about their role. It is important that education support workers support the child in a way that includes the child in the wider education and social life of an early childhood centre. They should not be off in the corner alone with the child doing individual tasks all the time.

Education support workers need to work closely with early childhood teachers and support the child to play with other children. They also need to know when to back off and let a child learn and make friends on their own. Addressing these issues should be a key part of the child’s Individual Education Plan.

The need for support workers to give people space is a common issue for both children and adults who receive support. Access to support workers can be a double-edged sword. Some people need support workers to get out and about, and access community opportunities, such as education. Sometimes, however, support workers can get in the way of people’s independence and ability to meet people and make friends. This issue was a big part of our Article 19 research.

As an organisation, we are always mindful of the need to provide support in a way that respects and builds people’s independence as well as their ability to form genuine relationships with others.

The good news is that a survey of 103 education support workers found that a majority appeared to be giving the child they were supporting space to learn and interact with other children. A majority also reported that they worked closely with early childhood teachers.

Nevertheless, a sizeable minority said they had limited involvement with early childhood teachers. A significant minority also said that they worked exclusively with the child they were supporting and did not involve other children.

Overall most education support workers appear to doing a good job at supporting children to be included. We need to look for ways, however, to address that minority who do not seem to be doing a good job. All education support workers should know when to step back and let the child they are supporting grow and thrive on their own.

Sam Murray

National Policy Coordinator