With the pressures of the teacher recruitment crisis, it is more important than ever to ensure teachers utilise TAs effectively; however, it is vital to know what TAs are legally allowed to do and what they cannot. This guidance has been created so that schools can ensure they use TAs to their full potential and act in line with statutory requirements in the process.
The responsibilities of TAs can be wide and extremely varied – from one-to-one pastoral support to working with groups.
TAs are valuable assets to classrooms and using them efficiently can have huge benefits on the academic and social development of pupils. TAs are often asked to help supervise individual or a group of pupils to ensure their safety and support their emotional development. TAs may also be asked to monitor and support specified pupils to aid in their academic progress and to assist in classroom activities, helping any pupils who require it.
TAs are often used to support individual pupils with SEND; doing this ensures that pupils with SEND are given additional support and attention, which helps them with their emotional, social and academic development.
What can TAs not do?
The Education (Specified Work) (England) Regulations 2012 state that only a qualified teacher or an individual who satisfies at least one of the conditions in the Schedule, is permitted to carry out ‘specified work’. Specified work includes the following:
- Planning and preparing lessons and courses for pupils
- Delivering lessons to pupils
- Assessing the development, progress and attainment of pupils
- Reporting on the development, progress and attainment of pupils
In other words, unless a TA meets a condition in the Schedule, they would not be permitted to plan or teach a lesson unsupervised, nor would they be allowed to assess or report on the development of a pupil.
Developing TA practice
Ultimately, staff deployment is the responsibility of the senior leadership team (SLT), but it is important for them to liaise with classroom teachers and TAs to ensure that the most appropriate and effective plan is put into place. The needs of the pupils should drive decisions around TA deployment.
The SLT should thoroughly review current deployment and plans, so they understand how the school is currently working to meet the needs of those pupils who require additional support. A candid self-appraisal is crucial in recognising where changes are required.
It is important to set out the responsibilities that the school will delegate to TAs. Defining the role, purpose and contribution of TAs across the school will ensure the process of deploying them and planning their support is smoother.
Next, the school should begin to develop a whole-school approach to improving its TA practices. Schools should introduce changes to how they use TAs gradually, testing ideas and ensuring staff across the school are supporting the new practice.
Once this whole-school approach is in place, provide TAs with the appropriate training and support – this training is an essential step towards pupil progress.
Outlined in this section are some useful tips for ensuring TAs are used effectively so that pupils receive the most beneficial and appropriate support.
Supplementing not substituting
Using TAs as more than an informal teaching resource for low-attaining pupils can sometimes result in TAs substituting rather than supplementing classroom teachers. TAs might be presumed to be taking responsibility for a specified pupil, which can result in the pupil not receiving the same attention from their classroom teacher as their peers. TAs should be used to add value to what teachers do, not to replace them. Any one-to-one support should be structured and supported by the classroom teacher.
Try rotating TAs so that every pupil receives their attention. Teachers should not measure a pupil’s need for additional support without evidence, having a TA who assists everyone will ensure that all pupils who may be finding a lesson difficult are identified and helped, as well as ensuring that those pupils with identified SEND receive equal support from their classroom teacher.
Try using TAs to deliver high-quality one-to-one and small-group support, using structured interventions. Once pupils have been identified as needing additional support, it can often be beneficial having a group set-up. Pupils often feel more comfortable in a group and they will be able to encourage and help each other.
Developing independent learning skill in pupils
Use TAs to help pupils develop independent learning skills and to manage their own learning. For example, TAs should try to avoid prioritising pupils completing their work and instead focus on aiding pupils in becoming confident in owning tasks and problem-solving. TAs should encourage pupils to work out answers, as opposed to giving pupils answers; avoid over-prompting or ‘spoon-feeding’.
TAs should be fully prepared for their role in the classroom; schools should provide sufficient time for TA training, and for teachers and TAs to meet outside lesson time. Communication is also vital here; ensuring that classroom teachers communicate lesson plans to TAs will mean that TAs are prepared with information, knowledge and teaching techniques for a lesson’s topic.
Supervising and training
TAs should also be given support and training from classroom teachers to ensure that the assistance they are giving pupils is effective and accurate.
Senior teaching staff should ensure that the one-to-one support that TAs offer to pupils is structured, supported with resources and lesson plans and the learning objectives are clear.
Monitoring and assessments should be used to identify the appropriate pupils in need of additional support. Classroom teachers should ensure that the support the TA offers to the pupil is focussed and appropriate for the pupil’s progress.
The extra support sessions that TAs offer are often more effective when they are brief yet regular and maintained over a long period of time with careful timetabling in place to ensure that delivery is consistent.
Links between classroom and additional support
Classroom teachers and TAs should work together to ensure that explicit connections are made between everyday classroom teaching and additional support; support should expand on the work done during whole-class lessons.
Training can have huge benefits for the efficiency at which a TA operates; this could be done through a formal qualification or could be provided to them from a qualified teacher. There are opportunities for TAs to progress in their career, such as becoming a higher level TA (HLTA). HLTAs do the things that TAs do, but the biggest difference is the increased level of responsibility – for example, HLTAs can teach classes on their own and cover planned lessons. Conducting 360 appraisals of individual staff members can also be a good way of identifying areas for development and improvement – use this HLTA: 360 Appraisal Tool to assess the level of a HLTA’s performance.
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.
Adi Bloom (2016) ‘Seven steps to using teaching assistants effectively’ <https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/seven-steps-using-teaching-assistants-effectively> [Accessed: 7 March 2018]
Colin Harris (2018) 'The only sticking plaster holding schools together? The army of teaching assistants' <https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/only-sticking-plaster-holding-schools-together-army-teaching> [Accessed: 7 March 2018]
Education Endowment Foundation (2015) ‘Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants’
The Education (Specified Work) (England) Regulations 2012, section 3
The Education (Specified Work) (England) Regulations 2012, section 5