Seven golden rules for using teaching assistants effectively

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Photo: iStock

Seven evidence-based recommendations for the most effective ways to use teaching assistants to boost learning and achievement have been published to schools.

There are currently 243,700 teaching assistants employed in schools across England – a number that has trebled since 2000.

New research from the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has concluded that when teaching assistants are well-trained and used in "structured settings with high-quality support", they can boost pupils' learning by as much as an extra term.

The report – Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants – has identified seven golden rules for the deployment of teaching assistants, which school leaders are now being urged to adopt.

These principles are also to form the core of a new £5 million EEF campaign, focused on West and South Yorkshire, to help improve the impact of teaching assistants.

Four of the seven recommendations focus on teaching assistants in the classroom.

The research warns that schools have "drifted into a situation" where teaching assistants are often being used as an informal teaching resource for low-attaining pupils – yet this doesn't have the required impact.

The report states: "If teaching assistants have a direct instructional role it is important they supplement, rather than replace, the teacher – the expectation should be that the needs of all pupils are addressed, first and foremost, through high-quality classroom teaching. Schools should try and organise staff so that the pupils who struggle most have as much time with the teacher as others."

Elsewhere, the EEF analysis finds that using properly trained teaching assistants to help pupils' develop independent learning skills and to manage their own learning is an effective approach.
Schools must also give sufficient time for teachers and teaching assistants to meet out of class to enable lesson preparation and feedback.

The findings also advise how schools can use teaching assistants to deliver out-of-class interventions, such as small group and one-to-one support.

Dr Kevan Collins, EEF chief executive, said: "Teaching assistants play such a significant role in schools, especially in supporting some of our most disadvantaged pupils, that they deserve the best possible guidance.

"By providing teachers and school leaders with a practical framework that they can take into the classroom, (this) report has the potential to make a real difference to the professional development of teaching assistants and, as a result, pupil attainment."

One of the report's authors, Rob Webster of the Institute of Education, added: "Our extensive research and on-going work with schools shows that making best use of teaching assistants is a school leadership issue.

"School leaders need to put pupils' needs at the heart of a review of current practice and to think through ways of strategically deploying teaching assistants across the school to ensure pupils receive the best possible educational experience."

He added: "Teaching assistants should play an integral part in the drive to improve pupil achievement."

Download the full EEF report at

Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants: Recommendations

  1. Teaching assistants should not be used as substitute teachers for low-attaining pupils.
  2. Use teaching assistants to add value to what teachers do, not replace them.
  3. Use teaching assistants to help pupils develop independent study skills and manage their own learning.
  4. Ensure teaching assistants are fully prepared for their role in the classroom through out of class liaison with teachers.
  5. Use teaching assistants to deliver high-quality one-to-one and small group support using structured interventions.
  6. Adopt evidence-based interventions to support teaching assistants in their small group and one-to-one instruction.
  7. It is important that what students learn from teaching assistants complements what they are being taught in the classroom.

This material is protected by MA Education Limited copyright.
See Terms and Conditions.


Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code
About Us

Headteacher Update is the only magazine delivered directly to every primary school headteacher in the UK. It is published six times a year, at the beginning of each term and half-term, to keep headteachers up-to-date with everything going on in primary education.

Learn more about Headteacher update


Register to receive regular updates on primary education news delivered free to your inbox.