The presence of Teaching Assistants and other key support staff has always been a hot topic of debate amongst the education community and wider society. One side of the argument claims that they are a waste of £4bn of taxpayers’ money, with reports showing the absent or negative impact they have on pupil’s progress. Advocates of Teaching Assistants rebuke these claims, further stating that when trained and utilised properly they are an undoubted asset to the classroom.
News publications are quick to print the negative reports about Teaching Assistants and further dispute their significance. We know how hard Teaching Assistants work, and drawing from a Unison report which surveyed school leaders, we will outline their unbelievably vital role in schools.
Impact on Individual Pupils
The benefits of a TA supporting an individual pupil on a 1:1 basis extend far beyond academic development and achievement. They provide pastoral care and act as a positive role model to pupils who have gaps in their family structure. They offer reassurance and attention to build up the confidence of pupils with low self-esteem.
Impact on the Learning Environment
Even if a Teaching Assistant is working on a 1:1 basis with an individual, the positive effect this has on the rest of the class is often overlooked. They can reduce disruption and the number of exclusions, and one TA ‘single-handedly kept some of our year 11s from pre-exclusion and helped them achieve 5 A* to C grade GCSEs’.
Impact on Communication
Teaching Assistants offer an important link between the teacher and pupil, as some pupils feel that it is a lot easier to talk to support staff. Headteachers found that TAs could build trusting relationships with students quicker than teachers could, and enjoyed acting as advocates for these pupils and their parents.
Impact on Teachers
It is commonplace knowledge that good Teaching Assistants can take a large portion of a teacher’s workload off their hands. This reduces the stress levels in teachers and allows them to spend less time doing administrative duties. Without Teaching Assistants, senior leaders admit that more teachers would have to be recruited, and the sick leave of teachers would also be considerably higher.
Impact on School
When asked what the impact of removing Teaching Assistants from school would be, respondents’ listed a number of elements of school life that would be negatively effected. Although you may think of a Teaching Assistant as just another pair of eyes and ears in the classroom, plenty of these answered covered areas that you wouldn’t even realise had anything to do with them. From health and safety issues to narrowing the curriculum, no extracurricular activities to absent pupils, it is clear that our support staff offer so much more than classroom assistance.
Perhaps the response that best highlights the value of Teaching Assistants came from one Headteacher who simply stated [without them], ‘My school wouldn’t be Outstanding’.
Do you value your Teaching Assistant? Would you see a noticeable impact if they left your school? Let us know on social media!