Best Practice

Teachers & teaching assistants: Eight principles of effective working partnerships

Effective working between teachers & teaching assistants are vital. Sara Alston considers eight key principles to emerge from recent snapshot research of what makes effective teacher-TA working partnerships

The role of the teaching assistant is both controversial and often under-considered in schools. Teaching assistants entered the school workforce by stealth and their role is continuing to develop without planning, often in response to policy decisions and events that have little to do with their role.

These started with the Warnock Report (1978) on SEN inclusion in mainstream schools and the growing concerns, in the 1980s and 1990s, about teaching retention and workload.

The responses initiated a gradual move from parent helpers and ancillary staff, supporting with practical tasks and occasionally hearing children read, to today’s professional teaching assistant workforce.

Due to the organic nature of their growth, teaching assistant roles have developed in different ways in different places. This is reflected in the range of job titles given to those undertaking support roles in classrooms and the lack of standardisation in approach to the expectations of teaching assistants and the teachers working with them. This is exacerbated by a lack of training for either teaching assistants or teachers on how to work together.

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