The total number of TAs working in English schools is down for the first time ever – but encouraging signs from the MITA project show how a strategic focus on TAs can unlock their potential.
The Deployment and Impact of Support Staff (DISS) Project
Named by the British Educational Research Association as one of 40 landmark studies to have had a significant impact on education in last 40 years, the DISS project is the largest study of teaching assistants and other school support staff carried out in the world. The results,published in 2009, found that the more support pupils received, from TAs, the less progress they made - but TAs are not blame.
The Effective Deployment of TAs (EDTA) Project
The findings from the DISS project made it clear that schools needed to fundamentally rethink the way they used TAs if they are to get better value from them - and help pupils. To address the practical issues raised by the DISS project, we worked in collaboration with teachers and TAs from ten schools over a school year to develop and evaluate alternate models of TA use. The results were published in 2012.
The Making a Statement (MAST) Study
Our MAST study investigated the day-to-day experiences of teaching and support for pupils with a Statement of SEN in primary schools. The findings, published in 2013, raised important points for school leaders, SENCos, teachers, educational psychologists and parents to consider ahead of imminent the new reforms to SEN and disability in England.
The SEN in Secondary Education (SENSE) Study
The SENSE study replicates and builds on our earlier MAST study. It was set up to describe the day-to-day educational experiences of pupils with Statements or Education, Health and Care Plans in secondary and special schools. The findings, published in June 2017, cast doubt on the sustainability of a model of inclusion dependent on the use of TAs.
The Teaching Assistants' Talk Studies
We have produced a number of papers on the interactions between TAs and pupils. Insights from our researc into TAs' talk to pupils have prompted a rethink on how those with pedagogical roles can add significant value to classroom interactions. We set forward a robust scaffolding role for TAs, which embeds skills for greater pupil independence and risk-taking with learning.