Introduction

With the current teacher recruitment crisis, it is potentially more important than ever to ensure that TAs are empowered and content in their positions. As can be read in our How to Use Teaching Assistants Effectively guidance, TAs can have huge benefits on the learning outcomes of pupils.

This guidance document is aimed at educating TAs on how their careers can progress, and at educating classroom teachers on how they can empower and instill confidence in TAs –  the guidance focusses on how to ensure TA morale is kept on the up and outlines how TAs’ careers can progress from their current position.

TAs in the classroom

TAs’ responsibilities can be wide and extremely varied – from one-to-one pastoral support to working with full classrooms as additional teaching support. TAs can be assets to classrooms and using them efficiently often has huge benefits on the academic and social development of pupils, as well as making the workload of classroom teachers more manageable.

Some main points to remember in regards to TAs include:

  • TAs should be used to enhance the work done by classroom teachers and should not be used to replace the classroom teacher.
  • TAs are often most effective when providing support to a small group of pupils who require additional help.
  • TAs should encourage independent thinking so as to develop learning skills – pupils shouldn’t be spoon-fed information.
  • Ensure that TAs are fully prepared for their roles in the classroom by being a mentor and supervising them however you can. Offering training to TAs is also a good way of ensuring that your TAs can offer effective support in the classroom.
  • You, as the classroom teacher, should ensure that communication between you and your TA is effective and regular. Communicating will aid in ensuring that TAs are prepared for individual lessons.

Empowering TAs

Staff who are happy in their roles are generally more productive and dedicated members of their team. As TAs can be so vital to the running of a classroom, it is important that they feel valued and empowered.

Before steps are taken to empower TAs, it is important to remember the legal limit at which they must work within, which is explained in the Schedule of The Education (Specified Work) (England) Regulations 2012.

One of the most effective ways of empowering a TA is by ensuring they understand they are an integral member of their team. TAs need to understand that their classroom teacher relies on, trusts and values them.

Communication

When managing TAs, you need to be clear and specific. Remember that TAs are not necessarily involved in the planning of lessons, so it is important that you communicate the lesson’s plans to your TA, as well as lesson expectations and pupils who may need extra focus. This will aid in ensuring that TAs know how to support pupils and will give TAs time to prepare themselves for the lesson.

Communicating with your TA will help to empower them, as you are displaying that you understand the value they bring to your lessons.

Class interaction

Encourage your TA to interact with the class and give their input into your lessons. This will not only enable them to raise their profile in the classroom, but also allows you to develop an engaging environment as you’ll be able to work together to deliver intriguing lessons and combine your knowledge and skills.

Decision-making

Allowing TAs to make independent decisions that are in line with your classroom rules and behavioural strategies is empowering – this promotes a team approach and helps to ensure your classroom runs smoothly.

Build on your TA’s strengths

Building a rapport with your TA is a good way of establishing a positive working relationship and helps you to develop an understanding of your TA’s strengths and areas for development. By knowing this, you’ll be able to utilise them in a way that ensures they can be confident and productive. Additionally, you’ll be able to build on their areas for development, e.g. by encouraging them to undertake specific training or by you acting as a supervisor and mentor.

Feedback

Offering feedback can be an effective way of ensuring that staff feel valued and empowered. Try to organise regular meetings with your TA in which they can ask you questions: you can let them know what they’ve done well and what they could do to improve their practice.

Career paths

There are four grades of TAs, these are:

  • Level one teaching assistant
  • Level two teaching assistant
  • Level three teaching assistant
  • Higher level teaching assistant (HLTA)

TAs working at higher levels take on more responsibility so, consequently, they receive higher pay.

To progress beyond level one, an NVQ or equivalent is needed. In most instances, schools will support TAs in gaining the relevant experience and qualifications needed to progress, meaning it is quite possible to work up through the different grades whilst working as a TA.

The exact requirements of TAs at each level varies between schools and LAs, but as TAs work up the pay scale, from a level one TA to a level three TA, they will take on an increasing amount of responsibility.

There are many career routes and enhancements that can be taken by TAs, such as completing the following Qualification and Credits Framework units:

  • Level 2 Award in support work in schools
  • Level 2 Certificate in supporting the wider curriculum in schools
  • Level 2 Certificate in supporting teaching and learning in schools
  • Level 3 Award in supporting teaching and learning in schools
  • Level 3 Certificate in supporting teaching and learning in schools
  • Level 3 Certificate in cover supervision of pupils in schools
  • Level 3 Diploma in specialist support for teaching and learning in schools 

Additionally, taking part in generic training courses, such as SEND training, can help TAs to further their knowledge and skills, and may open new opportunities to them. Ensuring TAs know about the opportunities that surround them is a positive way of making sure they feel valued and empowered.

It is also possible for TAs to become fully qualified teachers. There are several ways in which TAs can achieve QTS, such as doing the Postgraduate Certificate in Education(PGCE). For more routes into becoming a fully qualified teacher, click here.

What’s next?

Schools should evaluate how confident their TAs are in the classroom and how effective their support is. By using a Teaching Assistant Lesson Evaluation Form, TAs can record their interactions with pupils and give this record to the classroom teacher – this can be akin to an evaluation which will ensure TAs continually improve their practice. It can also be a useful tool to use to give TAs positive and constructive feedback.

When it comes to appraising your TA, you can utilise our Teaching Assistant: 360 Appraisal Tool to calculate an average performance rating from a range of indicators, including safeguarding and welfare, supporting pupils with SEND, and promoting positive relationships. This tool will help you undertake a thorough and detailed review of the TA’s performance.

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Bibliography

Egonu-Obanye, D. (2013) ‘How to work with your teaching assistant: it's a double act’ <https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2013/sep/03/how-to-work-with-teaching-assistant> [Accessed: 3 April 2018]

Drury, E. (2013) ‘Making the leap from teaching assistant to teacher’ <https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2013/jun/26/teaching-assistant-to-teacher-career-advice> [Accessed: 3 April 2018]

Corby, G. (2018) ‘Five steps to maximise the impact of teaching assistants’ <https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/five-steps-maximise-impact-teaching-assistants> [Accessed: 3 April 2018]

Webster, R. (2017) 'Schools don't use teaching assistants effectively – here are four ways to get the most out of your TAs' <https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/schools-dont-use-teaching-assistants-effectively-here-are-four-ways> [Accessed: 3 April 2018]

TES (2017) ‘Teaching assistant career development’ <https://www.tes.com/articles/teaching-assistant-career-development> [Accessed: 3 April 2018]

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