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The Role Teaching Assistants (TAs)

'Deployment and Impact of Support Staff' by the Institute of Education (2009) reported on a five year study of 8,200 children.  The study found that children who received the most support from TAs consistently made less progress than similar children who received less TA support. 

'There has been a drift towards TAs becoming, in effect the primary educators of those lower attaining pupils and those with SEN.  The tusdy found that teachers like this arrangement becuase they can then teach th erst of the class knowing that the children in most need get more individual attention.  However the study also reported that the more support that pupils get from TAs, the less they get from teachers. These pupil stherfore vecome separated from the teacher and the curriculum and as a result make less progress.'

Deployment and Impact of Support Staff, 2009

The results are now widely recognised and fed into the Lamb Enquiry on SEND, and the Government's SEN Green Paper, which resulted in the Children and Familes Act 2014.

Research Recommendations and good practice in schools

The researchers recommend:

  • TAs should not routinely support lower attaining children and those with SEND
  • Teachers should deploy TAs in ways that allow them to 'add value' to their own teaching
  • Initial teacher training should include how to work with and manage TAs
  • Schools should have a formal induction process for TAs
  • More joint planning and feedback time for teachers and TAs.

Ofsted is also clear that teachers should ensure TAs do not always work with lower attaining pupils nor rely solely on information from a TA about how much progress pupils with SEND are making.

Local good practice evidence shows that where there is clarity about the following TAs can make a significant difference to pupil outcomes:

  • Responsible recruitment and induction, according to need
  • Clear line management
  • Clarity of role, including an agreed job description
  • Effective deployment based on rigorous analysis needs of pupils – e.g. clarity about where teacher input will have more value to learning than TAs; how TAs can support whole class learning and not just the most vulnerable learners
  • Ongoing training/development including whole school continuous professional development
  • Performance management linked to job role, professional National Occupation Standards for Supporting Teaching Learning and school priorities
  • Support and training for teachers – e.g. how to manage TAs most effectively
  • Time allocated for TAs to participate in other relevant activities (e.g. regular teacher and TA time)
  • Support and training for teachers – e.g. how to manage TAs most effectively.
  • Time allocated for TAs to participate in other relevant activities (e.g. regular teacher and TA time)

Effective Teaching Assistant Support

It is good practice for TAs to support in the following areas:

  • Teacher input (i.e. supporting the effective inclusion of all children in high quality lessons)
  • Learning in group work (i.e. small-group intervention programmes)
  • Learning of individuals (i.e. specific targeted approaches for individual children identified as requiring SEN intervention)

TAs Supporting Teachers

TAs can support the teacher by:

  • Working collaboratively with the teacher during input e.g.:
    • Jointly model speaking and listening ‘pair’ tasks
    • Scribe for teacher on board
    • Help operate interactive whiteboard
    • Demonstrate activities
  • Scanning class for inappropriate behaviour, use eye-contact/visual prompts to communicate and re-focus child’s attention
  • Encouraging reticent children to answer (verbally e.g. ‘I think Kati has a good idea’ or silently, using nods or encouraging smile! Providing question cards)
  • Using observation checklists when relevant e.g. for behaviour, participation, and for assessment purposes, to inform future planning
  • Providing resources if necessary

TAs Supporting Group Work

TA's support learning in group work by:

  • Facilitating access to task i.e.:
    • Ensuring physical access
    • Ensuring understanding (concept/task/instructions) and facilitating understanding through use of ‘mother tongue’ if necessary
    • If necessary, going over teaching from an earlier part of the lesson – clarifying, using further explanation and examples
    • If necessary, providing resources to support learning [ensuring that support has an impact on learning]
    • - Visual: e.g. alphabet strip, word-mat, table square, number square, vowel chart, key words/tricky words/new words list/cards, visual prompts and support
      • Aural: e.g. taped story
      • Kinaesthetic: e.g. mini-whiteboard, number fans, place-value cards, counters, cubes, shapes.
    • Scribing or providing alternative methods of recording
      Specific support e.g. signing, helping children use ICT, providing adapted resources.
  • Scaffolding learning by using:
    • Mind-maps
    • Spider-grams
    • Writing frame e.g. ‘Writing skeletons’
    • Talking/Speaking Frame
    • Role-play.
    • Encouraging children to explain thinking to TA/others in group
  • Modelling
  • Demonstrating
  • Reminding pupils of previously learned strategies
  • Supporting work on teacher-planned differentiated activities
  • Encouraging/modelling correct/appropriate use of language
  • Pre-tutoring/rehearsing for plenary task
  • Modelling/coaching appropriate behaviour and social skills
  • Working with children to help them to prepare to answer a question the teacher has given them time to think about
  • Providing appropriate praise and encouragement, and using Pause/Prompt/Praise
  • Encouraging independent learning - use timer if necessary
  • Monitoring pupil progress in order to feedback to class teacher
  • Reminding pupils of targets and helping them to assess their own work.

With pupils in targeted intervention groups

  • Helping pupils to relate to and transfer skills and knowledge from withdrawal context to main lesson
  • Coaching pupils in skills needed for cooperative group work by explaining and describing, modelling and praising appropriate behaviours
  • Assessing progress and giving feedback to the teacher.

Teaching Assistants will also use further methods below:

  • Providing support which is clearly focused on moving the pupil on
  • Ensuring objectives and expected outcomes for session are clear to the pupil
  • Ensuring that there are strategies to reduce over-dependency (e.g. when task has been made clear, pupil set to work independently on task for specified period of time – use timer if necessary - while TA works with other pupils)
  • Ensuring that support facilitates interaction between pupil and peers and doesn’t inadvertently act as a barrier to interactions
  • Ensuring support is discreet and does not embarrass the child
  • Sometimes using support to pre-tutor child and/or go through unusual or technical vocabulary for future lessons
  • Identifying progress and knowing when to move the child’s learning on

Although TAs provide support for both pupils and teachers, the teacher remains accountable for the progress of every pupil in their classroom, their learning, assessment and planning.

TAs Supporting Learning of Individuals

Teaching Assistants supporting the learning of individuals by using strategies as above, plus:

  • Providing support which is clearly focused on moving the child on
  • Ensuring objectives and expected outcomes for session are clear to the pupil
  • Ensuring that there are strategies to reduce over-dependency (e.g. when task has been made clear, pupil set to work independently on task for specified period of time – use timer if necessary - while TA works with other pupils)
  • Ensuring that support facilitates interaction between pupil and peers and doesn’t inadvertently act as a barrier to interactions
  • Ensuring support is discreet and does not embarrass the child
  • Sometimes using support to pre-tutor child and/or go through unusual or technical vocabulary for future lessons
  • Identifying progress and knowing when to move the child’s learning on.

Although TAs provide support for both pupils and teachers, the teacher remains accountable for the progress of every pupil in their classroom, their learning, assessment and planning.