Since 2000, the number of teaching assistants in British schools has more than trebled, rising from 79,000 to 243,700.
Research into support staff however, showed that the students with the support of teaching assistants were making less progress than those of a similar ability receiving little or no help. So, does this mean that teaching assistants no longer have a place in the classroom? Not at all. In fact, there’s been plenty of research with resulting evidence that proves the benefits that teaching assistants offer. Not only do they provide another adult presence in the classroom, they help to reduce workload and stress levels, as well as minimising disruption.
A recent report into the best use of teaching assistants resulted in experts devising seven recommendations based on existing research. These recommendations were split into three different categories: use of teaching assistants in the classroom; teaching assistants making interventions outside the classroom and linking the work of teachers and teaching assistants.
The conclusion reached is that TA’s are an excellent classroom addition as long as they’re used properly. Rather than using them as an extra teacher, focussing mainly on the lower achievers, teaching assistants should be used to enhance teaching rather than replacing the teachers.
In fact, classrooms should be run completely opposite to how they are at the moment. Teaching assistants should be used to encourage students to take ownership of their learning, and the way that they learn. For this, TA’s will require detailed training and robust support in order to effectively understand the different teaching methods. This will not only improve the structure of lessons, and the knowledge and ability of the TA, it’ll also allow teachers to spend more time with those low achievers that really do need their help.
With added training, teaching assistants would not only help relieve stress in the classroom, they’ll help to prevent the spoon-feeding and over-prompting of students. If teachers are given the time to teach their lesson and then focus on the students that are really in need, TA’s have the chance to move around the classroom and enhance the lesson for those that are able to get on without any problems.
If classroom assistance is something that you’re interested in but an admin role doesn’t sound like the thing for you, then consider becoming a teaching assistant. The rewards are huge and you can even gain the relevant qualifications in your own time.