Since 2010, teaching assistant (TA) impact has been under scrutiny. For the first time this century TA numbers have reduced in the UK. Some schools have even taken the decision to remove them altogether. When a cohesive approach on supporting students has been fostered, TAs can be extremely effective.
I am fortunate to have had many positive experiences of working with TAs in lessons and have developed some effective methods for optimising their support.
How do we optimise TA support?
TAs see students in a variety of lessons. More often they know the students better than teachers do. Therefore, it is helpful to ask them what works with a student and what doesn't.
At the beginning of the lesson try to inform the TA of who they are working with and what you’re hoping each student will achieve. (I also try to gather their feedback throughout.) This isn't easy with some classes, so alternative approaches can be taken.
A TA/teacher log book, detailing where support is needed that the TA can also respond to during the lesson can inform future planning. This gives you an ongoing dialogue in the written form for your records.
During lessons, TA perspective is almost identical to students. If they seem unsure of what to do, then it is almost certain that most of your class are confused! Talking to TAs about their view of lessons gives some insight into what the students thought.To this end, agreeing an approach towards them giving rewards and sanctions can work well. It illustrates to students that all staff in the room are to be treated with equal respect.
TAs are, like most of us according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, more proactive when they feel their input is valued.
Students who have special educational needs (SEN) should receive as much teacher support as anyone else. When they're being supported by a TA, this doesn't always happen as the teacher is often busy helping others. To avoid this becoming a regular issue, it can be useful to arrange for TAs to work with other groups of students whilst the teacher prioritises those with SEN.
A teacher who can lead TAs with clarity creates an optimised learning environment that elevates the learning experience for all.
About our Community Expert
Over 10 years of SEN experience in a number of settings. Developed whole-school approaches to ensure students with SEN are catered with the support they need.
Placing the student with SEN at the heart of all decisions made regarding their education, whilst liaising with all stakeholders involved.
Bernie is our education expert who provides SEN related content