The Unsung Heroes in the Classroom

Effective Use of Teaching Assistants

Their range of special powers may not include flying, but instead the ability to seemingly be everywhere at once. However, to many children and teachers across the country, Teaching Assistants are still seen as real-life heroes.

With a constantly growing pupil population and an audience demanding more one-to-one time than ever before, schools over the past 15 years have more than doubled the presence of key support staff in their classrooms. However, whilst £4 billion is being spent annually on TAs through funding such as the Pupil Premium, questions are being asked of the best way to implement an effective Teaching Assistants strategy.

In preparation for Understanding ModernGov’s one-day training course: Raising Standards through the Effective Use of Teaching Assistants, we briefly looked at a few of the problems facing schools who are seeking to create a new TA strategy.

Traditionally, a TA’s main responsibilities are to support teachers by assisting pupils with low attainment or SEN students. Often these children can benefit from the added confidence to ask questions and take risks with the knowledge that their friend, the TA, is there to back them up.

However, should TAs be continued to be used as a resource to support those who are struggling? Or, should they be assisting the others in the class so that the teachers themselves can spend more of their time with those students who require additional support?

Talking about time; many will argue that this is a teacher’s biggest challenge. Whether it be preparation before class, ensuring they keep to schedule during the day or marking pupils work after school hours, teachers are always fighting to use their time wisely.

However, if for example TAs were more involved in PPA time, this kind of collaboration between the staff could enable a smoother running of classes and ultimately an environment that encourages learning. What’s more, by taking some of the pressure off of the teacher, schools will benefit for more satisfied employees and an improved retention rate.

This collaboration could also tackling the issue of delivering more structured interventions for TAs. Providing the assistants with the right training, direction and resources will ensure that they can support rather than deviate from the teacher’s lesson plan and can report concerns about individual’s ability to keep up with the workload.

Therefore, a key question that schools must ask is when TAs should be present in the classroom and where should the responsibility of allocating the resources lie? Should it be the department heads would decide where and when TAs are situated, or should that responsibility lie with the teachers themselves?

To conclude, from what we’ve discussed above, it’s clear that TAs are a vital resource for schools, teachers, parents and pupils. Among many other things, they:

  • Ensure pupils who need extra support receive the necessary attention
  • Have a great impact on the whole classes’ attainment by inspiring learning and stimulating curiosity
  • (Maybe most importantly) Work alongside teachers with the goal of providing pupils with a safe, nurturing and happy environment.

Schools must decide how best to use TAs for the class as a whole and for those individuals who require additional assistance. Important questions must be asked, such as, ‘should TAs be used as a resource that complements or supplements teachers?’

If you‘re currently facing questions such as this, you may be interested in attending our Raising Standards through the Effective Use of Teaching Assistants, taking place on Thursday 15th March in Central London, where you’ll gain practical insights into the new professional TA standards, explore how to develop your TA workforce and leave with an action plan to implement an effective TA strategy in your school. Find out more here

Now over to you:

Do you have experience with teaching assistants? Are you a teaching assistant yourself? Do you have any further ideas about how TAs can use their time in the most effective way? Are there any other crucial aspects that you would like to share? Tweet us using #UMGTraining @UModernGov, we always love to hear from you.

Do you have a team of staff at your organisation who would benefit from Effective Use of Teaching Assistants training? We also offer this course as a highly flexible In-House training session, delivered direct to your organisation on a date to suit you. Contact our In-House Training team on [email protected] to find out more.