Kay Richardson is a mother and a Classroom Assistant from Cefn Coch, Powys.
"I've always wanted to work with children and, after I did my degree in home and community studies, I became an instructor in an outdoor pursuit centre in mid Wales. I looked after the catering, and assisted with groups of children - most with special needs.
I loved it, and ended up getting married to one of the senior instructors. But when we had children, we made a decision that I would stay at home to look after them. I did a pre-school playgroup diploma, and started work in a playgroup when Matthew was eight months old which fitted in very nicely.
When Matthew went to school I needed to do more work, for financial reasons. A job as classroom assistant in the local school came up which meant more hours, but again it fitted in with the children's day. There's no way that I would do a job which meant that I couldn't be there when they came home from school.
I'm still working there now. I work mainly with statemented children - children diagnosed with a range of mild educational and behavioural problems like attention deficit, dyspraxia or dyslexia. It's my job to give extra attention to those children who are in a mainstream class. I make sure that they follow and understand what's going on and I help them with anything they need.
I also assist with the other children in class - generally those with lower ability. I sit with them, read with them, help them with their writing or art work. Classes are so big these days - 30 is commonplace - that it's impossible for a teacher to give complete attention to each child the whole time. I can often spot things that a teacher might miss - small things that could affect the child's behaviour or attitude which, left unchallenged, might escalate to bigger worries - things like hunger. I heard a child's tummy rumbling and learnt that he hadn't had any breakfast - a small thing, but it could become an issue.
I think I'm privileged. I have more opportunities for a one-to-one relationship with children than the teacher does. And it's rewarding to see them making progress. These children aren't ever going to be Einsteins, but to see that they're happy, with improvements in their reading and writing, spelling, use of new words, is wonderful.
On the down side, it's frustrating not to have enough time to concentrate on individuals. There isn't enough assistance in a large class of 30. If seven or eight have special needs, then neither the teacher or assistant can be everywhere. The ones who cause no trouble get ignored - we try our best for it not to happen, but you do have a nagging doubt that they are not fulfilling their potential.
I'm now looking into becoming a fully qualified teacher. With my degree I can do it in a one-year course, but that would mean my children would be deprived of my presence. I'm not prepared to send them to after school clubs, so I'll probably do the course over a longer period of time."
Kay, Cefn Coch, Powys
For more information see our section on becoming a 'Classroom Assistant'.