Best Practice

Deploying your teaching assistants effectively

There was a time when the teaching assistant was just a teacher's helper. Now so much more is expected from this professional role. Suzanne O'Connell finds out about emerging best practice and the advice schools are being given

Putting up displays, photocopying worksheets, listening to children read. The teaching assistant used to be the auxiliary on stand by, there to make the teacher's life a happier one.

Now the teaching assistant's role is almost indecipherable from the teacher. Focused on learning, analysing data and a partner in planning, this is a professional position at the heart of the school team.

The emergence of the teaching assistant as a distinct career has been in process for a while. The potential for this army of helpers was fuelled by the National Agreement to tackle excessive teacher workload in 2003. Teaching assistants are cheap in comparison to the cost of employing a teacher and schools were employing teaching assistants as a cost-effective way of improving student outcomes.

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