Teaching Assistants (TAs) play a vital role in the classroom, providing they’re used effectively. They provide support to teachers, reduce their workload and increase teaching standards. Their work is vital to ensuring pupils get the maximum benefit from attending school.
Teaching Assistant numbers have increased exponentially in the 21st Century. The amount of full time TAs has quadrupled from 79,000 at the beginning of the millennium, to 243,700 last year - according to the Education Endowment Foundation.
This increase has been a clear effort to help with teacher workloads. The National Agreement of 2003 suggested new and expanded TA roles as the solution to this, with the aim of improving standards.
It has also been driven by the push for more inclusive learning environments. TAs are often a key means of facilitation for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and low-attaining children.
In fact, such is the increase in numbers of TAs, that almost 13% of the education budget is spent on them – amounting to around £4.4 billion.
Given the rise and rise of TAs, it’s important they are used effectively.
TAs should not be used as an informal teaching resource – a de facto teacher replacement - for low-attaining pupils. This often results in those pupils being cut off from the rest of the class and the teacher. This can lead to a lower quality teaching standard for those pupils. TAs should be supplementing teachers, rather than replacing them.
This way, TAs can bring additional value to the classroom. They should be used to deliver high quality one-to-one and group support, which is shown to have the biggest impact on pupil attainment. In doing this, they can help pupils develop independent learning skills, providing structured interventions when needed.
The Teacher-TA Agreement provides a route for TAs to contribute throughout a lesson, allowing them to supplement the teacher.
Find more information on making best use of TAs in this Education Endowment Foundation report.
TAs are now a staple part of the learning environment. Their growth in numbers has provided teachers with a vital support tool. Their role is crucial in decreasing a teacher’s workload, helping students work independently and increasing teaching standards. However, they must enhance the teacher’s role – not replace it.