TEACHER workloads could be reduced when the first batch of specially trained classroom assistants qualifies from a Worcester college, writes DAN KENDRICK.

More than 100 trainees across Herefordshire and Worcestershire are currently training and being assessed for the Higher Level Teaching Assistant Status (HLTA).

The course has been developed and co-ordinated by lecturers at University College Worcester, in St John's, working in close partnership with local education authorities.

It represents a rigorous new standard for those who support teachers in the classroom, with assistants having to demonstrate their ability to take on greater responsibilities.

"A three-day HLTA briefing prepares participants for assessment, in which they have to provide evidence of how they meet the 31 standards of competency," said project co-ordinator Wendy Messenger.

"This culminates in a school visit by an assessor during which their evidence is verified," she said.

"Numbers are expected to grow as more funding is made available and schools re-access their staff training."

The course is already helping more than 250 teaching assistants improve across Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Warwickshire and Gloucestershire.

"The training so far has been really well received and has helped Teaching Assistants to develop in confidence," said UCW education lecturer and trainer, Scott Buckler.

"For those candidates who are successful, it will be possible to register as a student at UCW and to use their HLTA certificate as a springboard towards a Foundation Degree in Learning Support or even on towards a BA in Education."