Teaching assistants’ impact questioned

Written by: HTU | Published:

There should be a “fundamental rethink" in the way teaching assistants are used in schools including ending the practice of asking them to concentrate on lower performing students or those with SEN.

There should be a “fundamental rethink" in the way teaching assistants are used in schools including ending the practice of asking them to concentrate on lower performing students or those with SEN.



The claim comes from professors at the Institute of Education (IoE) in London who have hit out at the way teaching assistants spend their time in the classroom in a new book.



The three professors – Peter Blatchford, Anthony Russell and Rob Webster – have released the findings of a five-year study which measured the impact teaching assistants had on 8,200 students.



It found that students receiving the most support from teaching assistants consistently made less progress than those who receive less support, partly because such pupils become separated from the teacher and the curriculum. They are now recommending that teaching assistants should not routinely support lower attaining students or those with SEN.



Prof Blatchford, who is a professor in psychology and education, told Headteacher Update that teaching assistants working with lower attaining students do not provide “additional" help – instead they are seen as simply replacing the role of the teacher.



He explained: “We surely need to do more in schools than just contain certain pupils. The question to ask is what would the appropriate pedagogical input be for the pupil, and the balance of the teacher and the teaching assistant input. The teacher needs to have overall responsibility for all the pupils in the class, and this includes those with SEN.



“The convenient separation of pupils with SEN from teachers is not sustainable. We are calling for a fundamental rethink of the way teaching assistants are used because it lets down the most needy and disadvantaged pupils.



“We use the idea of value added to make the point that the teaching assistant should add value to the teacher's input not replace her, which is unfortunately the system that often operates at the moment."



The book, Reassessing the Impact of Teaching Assistants: How research changes practice and policy, also recommended that schools should have a formal induction process for teaching assistants and more joint planning and feedback time for teachers and teaching assistants.



However, the authors emphasised the solution is not to “do away" with teaching assistants and instead that they should hold more of a “roving role" in schools that will enable teachers to concentrate on the students who need it most.



Christine Lewis, national officer at UNISON, which represents teaching assistants, said: “It is difficult to accept the bald statement that teaching assistants should not routinely support lower attaining pupils and those with SEN. It really does depend on the child and circumstances.


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

Comments
Name
 
Email
 
Comments
 

Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code
 
Sign up Headteacher update Bulletin
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

Newsletter

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