Download PDF Supporting Childrens Learning: A Guide for Teaching Assistants

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View Larger Image. How do the best schools use their teaching assistants? John Dabell takes us through it. They suggest we need to consider three organisational and structural factors: Deployment of TAs Practice: TAs interactions with pupils Preparedness Deploying your Teaching Assistant Not all TAs are deployed effectively and there are huge variations in how they are trained.

Planning for Teaching Assistant deployment It is down to teachers and particularly the senior management team to make sure that teaching assistants are used effectively. Use TAs to add value to what teachers do, not replace them. Use TAs to help pupils develop independent learning skills and manage their own learning. Ensure TAs are fully prepared for their role in the classroom. Use TAs to deliver high-quality one-to-one and small group support using structured interventions.

Adopt evidence-based interventions to support TAs in their small group and one-to-one instruction. Ensure explicit connections are made between learning from everyday classroom teaching and structured interventions. This begs the question: How effective is your Maths intervention when led by a Teaching Assistant? Primary School Maths Intervention Checklist Stop wasting money on interventions that don't work with these 10 simple steps. Download Now. John Dabell. John is a trained Ofsted inspector and a teacher with over 20 years experience teaching Maths across all key stages.

Related Articles. We use essential and non-essential cookies to improve your experience on our website. Please read our Cookie Policy for information on how we use cookies and how to manage or change your cookie settings. I have always wanted to work with children. I had experience of work relating to children, for example at camps and in clubs.

I felt my experience as a mother and childminder was a good foundation from which to start. I was keen to look after my own children during school holidays and during after-school hours. Hilary Cremin et al. As we have indicated, volunteers are often invited into schools to assist teachers, and teaching assistants are employed without necessarily having any specific training although, increasingly, in-service training is being made available.

However, as we have suggested, volunteers and teaching assistants often have relevant informal experience, transferable abilities and intuitive skills that can support the work they do in schools. Furthermore, common sense suggests that, when large classes of children have access to additional adults who wish to help and support them, this will have a favourable impact on their learning and development.

Over time, evidence of the value of teaching assistants has increased, particularly in research reports. Kathy Hall and Wendy Nuttall in their survey of English infant teachers found that 75 per cent rated classroom assistants as equal to, or more important than, class size in terms of the quality of teaching and learning. Valerie Wilson et al. References to the important work of learning support staff can also be found in formal inspection reports from the national inspection bodies. As might be expected given other research studies to date, the researchers found that assistants had positive effects on teachers and their teaching.

We find this hard to believe. The authors do not attribute blame to teaching assistants, however. Nevertheless, our association with teaching assistants and their work over a long period suggests that the reality is far more complex. What do children and parents think of teaching assistants? Curiously, little has been written about their perspectives.

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A small-scale study involving 78 primary-aged children in England Eyres et al. However, the children reported a substantial overlap between the activities of teachers and teaching assistants. For instance, eight-year-old Sarah said:. Well, the helpers seem to help out and do what the teacher does and the teacher seems to mostly teach children.

But sometimes the helpers teach children. Well, Miss McAngel is the actual teacher, teacher, teacher. With regard to parents, given that many teaching assistants are parents from the local community, we can speculate that other parents are in touch with the ways in which teachers have increasingly delegated certain teaching-related responsibilities to assistants.

But maybe this is not the case. Teaching assistants, after all, are a new workforce. With up to thirty-seven children in each class, how could a teacher do her job effectively without assistants? Perhaps a more appropriate way of thinking about this is to say that teachers, as qualified professionals, hold the overall responsibility for what goes on in a classroom in terms of learning and teaching. Children, it seems, understand this.

In the study by Eyres et al. As six-year-old Sam commented:. Mrs Watts [the teacher] tells us what to do. In Activity 1 you looked at the various support roles of Jean, a pupil support assistant. Let us now consider the essential nature of the work that assistants do and the way they contribute to the totality of work in a classroom.

If this is so, it seems that teachers and assistants are working together to carry out the duties that previously teachers working alone would have covered.

Teaching Assistants | The Good Schools Guide

On this analysis, teaching assistants take on those whole-school and classroom duties that teachers feel they can delegate to a less qualified, but not necessarily less experienced, colleague. Alternatively, perhaps teaching assistants are in part doing tasks that teachers do not have time to do themselves. Job descriptions aim to capture the work that teaching assistants should do.

An interesting framework for thinking about roles, duties and the focus of support work was provided by the DfEE , para. It contains thumbnail sketches of the roles and responsibilities of ten learning support staff. Does the framework capture the totality of your working week or, if you do not currently work in learning support, your perception of the working week of a teaching assistant? A factor that we have not yet mentioned but that impacts on the ways in which teaching assistants are deployed is their flexibility as a workforce. Many are employed on a part-time basis, often with short-term contracts.

Teaching assistants have been very much involved in these programmes, which require considerable flexibility on their part as they work across year groups with identified children. It is worth acknowledging, however, that many teachers have had to make adjustments to their practice in order to work with teaching assistants as team colleagues.

Many are able to make this adjustment. We do sometimes, however, hear of teachers who find it hard to work well with another adult in a classroom context. Despite the presence of assistants in primary schools, the focus of much initial teacher training still tends to focus on teachers working in classrooms on their own rather than as collaborators with other adults. Teachers who have only recently achieved qualified teacher status QTS may therefore need time to establish how they wish to approach teamwork and, what is essentially, team teaching.

Most, if not all, would agree that teaching assistants bring considerable benefits for teachers and children and to school life more widely. If teachers are to benefit from the expertise that a well-informed teaching assistant can bring to the partnership, they need to find time to discuss and share ideas on teaching and the curriculum. This is not unlike the role that teachers take on in their supervision of students on teaching practice, where co-planning, co-teaching and feedback form much of the early stages of their training.

This is a time-consuming role, which encroaches greatly on the teaching and non-teaching time of teachers. This means that teaching assistants must be guided and supported by teachers, not only in terms of their curriculum-support practice but also in key areas of work such as health and safety and child protection. The great majority of teachers recognise the part that this extra work plays in the provision of a future teaching force; moreover, they appreciate that sharing good practice and observing colleagues can help them to develop their own role.

Given the limited amount of non-contact time in primary schools, teaching assistants and teachers are required to manage carefully the little time they have available for productive discussion. Alternatively an assistant may be recruited to the role for that very purpose, or perhaps they might lie somewhere in the middle, having joined the body of teaching assistants just as the role was being reviewed and bearing witness to its expansion and development.

In the penultimate section of this course, we focus with a degree of detail on the practice of teaching assistant Caroline Higham.

Teaching assistants: support in action

Caroline Higham is relatively new to the role of full-time teaching assistant. She has two children who were educated at the school where she is employed. Caroline would eventually like to be a qualified teacher and she is studying to complete a relevant degree on a part-time basis. Over the few years that Caroline has been at the school, her role has grown both in the number of hours that she works and in the nature of her responsibilities.

She keeps records of the individual children she supports, and she updates these at the end of each school day and shares them with staff. Parents often ask her for advice, so she has to judge when to pass their requests to teaching staff.

In her own area in the school, where she sometimes works with small groups of children or with individuals, the atmosphere is welcoming and there are stimulating displays on the walls. Note in the box below the ways in which you think Caroline exemplifies the three selected standards.

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Standards — whether national occupational standards for teaching assistants, HLTA standards, or those related to the award of QTS — often contain several ideas and practices. When standards are matched to practice, judgements must be made about whether certain examples of practice qualify for a full or partial claim and how much evidence of successful practice is required for a standard to be met.


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Suggesting that teaching assistants teach children has been taboo but this appears to be changing. Dillow , p. Children are therefore always agents in the teaching enterprise because they have influence over whether or not teaching happens. Eyres et al. It would be a brave person who tries to predict the future in any area of work.

However, in gathering resources for this course we have been in a position to obtain a good sense of how teaching assistants are currently working in primary schools across the UK.

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We are also in touch with a large number of assistants studying courses with The Open University and note how they write about their day-to-day work. This provides us with an idea of how the role is developing and also how it might possibly develop in the future. Doubtless, since The Open University first launched a specific advanced qualification for teaching assistants in The Specialist Teacher Assistant Certificate , assistants have, increasingly, become involved in the work that teachers do.

We would include here the following traditional teacher tasks:. Of course, not all teaching assistants do all of these things.

What Do The Best Schools Do to Make Effective Use of Their Teaching Assistants

Some do some of them as well as other kinds of schoolwork such as the preparation of learning resources, playtime supervision, running after-school clubs and collating school records. Some teaching assistants, however, do all six of the duties listed, especially long-serving and senior teaching assistants.

This can be regarded as a steady, albeit quietly implemented, development over time. It has mainly happened since the mid s but many teaching assistants before then were in fact, if not officially taking on teaching responsibilities, especially those working with children deemed to have special educational needs. They will usually have had experience of working with children, although this might not have been in a school environment. Once in position, TAs are usually sent on an induction course, and most will also be offered extra continuing professional development by their school — for example, TAs might be sent on courses on working with children with special educational needs, or on supporting children with English as a second language.

They then undergo a half-day assessment based in school before being awarded the qualification. TAs are often a real asset in the classroom. Teachers say that TAs help to reduce stress and work pressures, and keep disruption to a minimum. Parents, too, often sing the praises of TAs. Johanna Haworth, whose daughter is also in Year 2, agrees.

TAs are so valuable and are definitely educators too. Surprisingly, though, recent research by the Institute of Education shows that pupils who are supported by TAs make less progress than other children with similar needs. These baffling findings are attributed to the fact that TAs — who often have limited training — are often allocated to children with complex educational needs, which reduces their contact with the qualified teacher.

Instead, they should support teachers to spend more time with these children. Start your trial for FREE today!